Film Review: The Muppets (2011)

The Muppets are back. The newest film in the long-standing franchise, The Muppets, is a loving tribute and a logical evolution for the beloved characters. There's a meta-awareness about the franchise that allows the film to address the shift in entertainment from scripted all-ages shows to questionable reality TV, as well as the ability to play with the visibility of The Muppets as a modern pop culture icon. Gary, Mary, and new Muppet Walter travel from Smalltown, USA to Los Angeles for a vacation. When visiting The Muppets Studio, now an rundown dirt cheap tourist attraction, Walter discovers that an oil tycoon is going to destroy the studio in two weeks if the Muppets can't raise ten million dollars to buy it back. Walter, Gary, Mary, and Kermit work together to bring the gang back together, put on a show, and raise the money to save their legacy.

Filled with clever songs, asides to the audience, and celebrity cameos that don't just draw attention to themselves, The Muppets has everything you would expect from a new Muppet film in the Jim Henson vein. There is no fairy tale being retold, no distracting introduction of a new unlikable Muppet, and nobody is in space. It's the Muppets acting like the Muppets, complete with recreations of some of the most iconic moments in their history. This is the kind of film that anyone can go to, young or old, and have a great time at without being bombarded by senseless violence or adult situations. It's family entertainment in the best way possible.

The few tiny flaws I noticed were so minor that detailing them would be pointless. Most films have far more continuity errors, and pacing issues than "hmmm...wasn't that Muppet just in the orchestra pit?" or "that 20 second gag could have been shaved down by a few seconds." That a film requiring a large crew of puppeteers interacting with so many live actors (rarely does a scene unfold without a live actor sharing screen time with the Muppets) could be so polished and believable is a triumph to the quality of the film.

There are a few standouts from the live action stars that are worth mentioning. Amy Adams once again takes a very flat family-friendly female lead and creates a full-bodied character as Mary. She brings so much depth to her interactions with the Muppets with very good facial expressions and subtle shifts in tone. Zach Galifanakis steals the first few minutes of the telethon with his Hobo Joe character, a particularly loud and opinionated audience member. Rashida Jones and Jack Black are great foils to the antics of the Muppets without turning into villains or completely flat characters.

All I can say is that you should see this film. You have absolutely no reason not to. This is not the film that's going to pick up a dozen Academy Awards and go down in history as one of the greatest films of all time. It's not going to change how films are made or set off a wave of copycat puppet films (I hope). The Muppets is simply a fun film. It's light popcorn entertainment for the whole family. You'll laugh and fall in love with these characters all over again, which means the film has succeeded on its own terms.

Rating: 7/10

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