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The Great, the Baffling, the Terrible: “The Muppets”

I wrote these impressions after seeing “The Muppets.” It’s not strictly a review. There are plenty of spoilers, so if you want to see it, come back after you’ve had time to sit in the movie theater parking lot after it’s over, wondering what just happened. I’d love to hear your opinions.

The Great

~I loved the idea of a puppet brother. There is no explanation on how a human and a puppet are brothers, but I totally bought it and thought that aspect of the story was tremendously charming.

~The 80s robot chauffer was bizarre and odd enough to be really funny. I also loved the massive 80s boat-sized sedan he drove. Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan would drive an automobile as fine as that.

~Amy Adams was great as Mary, the sweetly innocent elementary school automotive repair teacher. The idea of a class like that for small children made me smile. When does enrollment begin? Nobody plays naive but strong like Amy.

~The “Am I Man or Muppet?” song was really well done with a great surprise twist. It also played off the dynamic of the co-dependent brothers.

The Good

~Finding the characters via montage and by map was unique. It stirred up memories of the first Muppet movie and countless other films where the main characters take to highways. Driving to France was cutesy.

~The Moopets were subversively hysterical. Anti-Kermit, anti-everything with Dave Grohl as a human Animal. Genius, but tired after the first sighting. I wish we had seen him more, though.

~I like Jack Black, but didn’t quite understand why he needed to be kidnapped. Jack is so cool, he would have loved hosting a variety show for the Muppets if they had simply asked. But then they wouldn’t have been able to show him cringing at Gonzo’s bowling skit or fighting the barbershop quartet’s efforts at grooming — both great scenes.

The Baffling

~I didn’t like the kinder, gentler Animal. He isn’t really Animal if he doesn’t completely lose it at some point. It’s what makes him so loveable. I kept waiting for him to unleash on the drums, but he never really did. At the climax of the movie, when he gets his drumsticks, Animal behaves himself. Yuck.

~Miss Piggy’s behavior was uncharacteristically zen as well. She showed her famous flashes of anger, but she never lost it on Kermie or anyone else. She participated in the kidnapping of Mr. Black. It seems odd to be disappointed to not see more puppet-on-puppet violence. I simply didn’t recognize the Muppets I grew to love as a kid.

~Tex Richman was supposed to be a cartoonish villain, in the same vein as Doc Hopper. Instead of laughing maniacally, he’d say, “Maniacal laughter! Maniacal laughter!” It’s a little too postmodern for me. Also, using oil as the motivation for evil deeds is extremely tired. Most of the audience arrived via machines with internal combustion engines. They use~gasp~OIL! A frog leg restaurant empire wanting Kermit as its Spokesamphibian was genius—unique, snarky, and truly evil. When a Muppet is personally threatened, it’s easier to care.

The Terrible

~Walter’s whistling was unbearable. It literally hurt my ears. He looked cute, but it was hardly a show-stopping, standing ovation performance. Yes, I’m dissing a little puppet boy’s earnest heartsong.

~James Carville. The man will lend his face and name to pretty much anything. Does anyone under the age of 18 know who he is or why he’s in “The Muppets?” I’m 40 and don’t understand how he’s relevant in the world of entertainment. I feel the same way about Ben Stein, in case you think I’m playing partisan politics.

~”The Rainbow Connection” was totally tacked-on and used without thought. It felt really forced and contrived. Cliche after cliche poured out with Kermit sitting on the log to Miss Piggy entering via rowboat. There were plenty of new songs in the movie. I get they wanted to tug on the heartstrings and invoke the good feelings of the original movies, but they pretty much lost that feeling along the way.

~Fozie’s fart shoes. We own a whoopie cushion or two, and nothing makes the kids giggle more than a well-timed toot. Fozie never resorted to bodily function jokes in the past, however. Why now? It’s a cheap laugh. Part of Fozie’s charm is that his jokes are so bad, they’re funny. He’s really sincere in his ineptitude. The fart shoes were, once again, totally out of character.

~Miss Piggy is the plus-size editor for Vogue. Pig. Plus-size. Of course.

~The billboards for Cars 2, just released on DVD in time for Christmas (shop now!) were so, so obviously pasted in. It’s like Disney executives mandated a blank square in all scenes around the theater for the sole purpose of photoshopping in a relevant ad. I bet $1,000,000 when The Muppets is released on DVD, there will be a new ad in those spaces for a Disney movie soon-to-be released in theaters. Product placement happens all the time in movies. Be a little subtle or have a sense of humor about it, Disney. For example, the 80s robot offering cans of Tab and New Coke was funny and showed how out of touch Kermit had become. And you can still buy Tab.

My husband gave it a 5 out of 10 stars. I’d give it about the same. To us, it was terribly mediocre. Maybe it’s because we watched The Muppet Show when it originally aired? Not as re-runs, not in short YouTube bursts, but on Saturday nights at 6:30pm. Our impressions of all-things Muppet are hopelessly and inextricably linked with those original airings. I couldn’t see the movie through 8-year-old eyes. But even my actual 8-year-old thought it was just…okay.

I really, really expected to like it more. I wanted to like it. I felt a weird struggle inside as I watched to find moments to admire and fondly remember. Lines to quote. A desire to see it again. There were some sweet, funny moments.

It tried.

8 comments to The Great, the Baffling, the Terrible: “The Muppets”

  • jenni

    ABSOLUTELY. COMPLETELY. AGREE. This is why I don’t blog anymore: somebody somewhere is already saying what I would have said, and usually saying it better. 🙂

  • I wanted to like it a lot, a lot more than I did. I LOVE the Muppets, though I didn’t watch when it originally aired. Not that I can remember, anyway. I have, however, seen The Muppets Take Manhattan no less than 100 times. That is not hyperbole. My sister, who is on the spectrum, became obsessed with that movie when we were kids. We completely wore out the VHS tape.


    I sort of adore Jason Segel and I really wanted this to be superb just as an accomplishment for him. I feel like it had a lot of potential but, yeah. Totally missed the mark in lots of ways. I think maybe it tried too hard for too much? It felt hurried, yet it dragged, too. There were definitely elements that needed to be developed more. It felt kind of superficial for me, I guess. And I say that gently because, like you, I really, really wanted to like it.

    I did like the muppet/human brother thing because one consistent element of The Muppets is the interaction with real people is always seamless. It’s always played as being very, very normal to be having a conversation with a frog or a pig or whatever Gonzo is.

    I don’t know. I’m secretly bummed. I’d rather watch Muppets Take Manhattan over this one any day. :/

  • We really enjoyed it. After reading your thoughts I could say I agree with every point you make, but I still just really liked it. There was so little innuendo or forced sarcasm/humor to reach the adults. Jason Segel has been very direct in talking about how he loved the Muppets as a kid and I think it shows in the movie. Sure, there were awkward lines and scenes, but I just thought it was fun. Muppets Take Manhattan is pretty much my favorite Muppet movie and this reminded me of it in mostly good ways.

    The many previews before the movie also intrigued me, lots of potentially good family movies to look forward to next year, hopefully.

  • I have no interest in seeing this new Muppet movie. Maybe for $1 at the Redbox but not in the theater. We did watch The Muppets Take Manhattan on DVD this weekend. THAT is a classic.
    I’m also trying to find the John Denver Muppets Christmas special. This probably means I’m getting old.

  • JoAnn

    I wanted to like it too, but the new songs didn’t really do it for me, the one man or muppet was by far the best….did you see it was co wrote by Segal guy…..I really think it could have been much better! Sigh! My kids were eh too, nothing spectacular.

  • Brian

    Wow, you make me feel ashamed for liking the movie :/

    I was disappointed that my kids didn’t seem to like it as much as Liz and I, but I just assumed that the humor and movie itself were more aimed for Gen-X crowds. The kids had little previous exposure to the Muppets, and had no historical context or real knowledge of the vast array of characters in the movie. Given that, I could sort of expect the ‘meh’ reaction to the movie we got from the boys. But to see your reaction to it, I’m a bit sad to be completely honest.

    Yeah, I watched the Muppet Show at 6:30 alongside you as kids. Though I’m younger, maybe I didn’t make the same connection with it that you did. As to the “Rainbow Connection”, you know they HAD to put that song in the movie, right? I mean you can’t put The Muppets on 30 year hiatus and not have that song in the movie.

    I do agree with a lot of what you said, but I was able to roll my eyes once at the Tex Richman thing and get past it and still enjoy the movie. Though you make a good point that the villain could have been better than Hollywood’s cause du jour. But they can’t pass up a chance to promote a cause, you know. This coupled with the Cars 2 stuff, it’s just something you have to expect from movies that are made these days. Sad? Yes.

    I do have to put out a shot for Jason Segal. I think he’s a brilliantly funny actor, and as co-writer on this movie, I was impressed overall with his work here. The question remains as to whether this is a flash-in-the-pan return of The Muppets, or if this will lead to more? In this day of remakes and sequels, you can count on another Muppets movie coming your way in 2013.

  • Gretchen

    The Muppets go PC. meh. Thanks for your thoughts. We haven’t decided if we want to go see it or just wait to rent it. We were really hoping it would be more along the lines of Muppet Treasure Island or A Muppet Christmas Carol. The last few Muppet movies have been disappointing (I think since Disney got in on the act).

  • I went in with very little expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I smiled through the whole movie and Carter loved it (as did Gray) and that made me so happy. I agree with pretty much everything you said aside from the fart shoes- that made me laugh when they were walking off stage… 🙂 But truly I thought it was great. We even bought the soundtrack and have been really enjoying it (but we’re also Flight of the Conchords fans, love Brett Mckenzie) –

    I’m still trying to think what Walter’s talent could have been, and wish they’d worked that in a little better, but I guess it doesn’t matter now!


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