9 December 2011 | DragoonKain
A heartfelt and hilarious tribute to The Muppets
This was the best Muppet Movie since 1981's The Great Muppet Caper, which is saying a lot, because I hold that film in very high regard.
The Muppets have been rather hit and miss since Jim Henson passed away. The Muppet Show was originally started by Henson and Oz as a more adult oriented, yet still family friendly comedy variety show as an outlet for gags and bits that wouldn't work on Sesame Street. It worked too, both kids and adults loved the show, and the first three films are classics in their own right. But, sometime in the 80s, The Muppets started to cater more towards Kids rather than adults. The Muppet Babies were first introduced in the third feature film which eventually spawned its own series. Henson then sold the franchise to Disney and sadly died shortly thereafter. It seems that, after the success of Muppet Babies, Disney decided to continue to move The Muppets in a more kid oriented direction ... one with a decidedly Disney flavor to it. This didn't really help the Muppets legacy in the long term. Kids grow up, and eventually grow out of kid shows and movies. And with very little, if any, appeal to adult audiences, The Muppets were soon forgotten by the generation who grew up in the 90s and 2000s.
But the generation that that grew up in the 70s and 80s had not forgotten the old Muppets, in fact they missed them dearly. Jason Segel is one of those people, and it is clear from this film that his enduring love of The Muppets and the influence they had on him as a child, was the driving force behind this movie.
This is a comeback movie. The Muppets start off in a bad way. People have forgotten them, their abandoned studio is about to be torn down, and they just aren't popular anymore. This is reflecting the actual situation The Muppets franchise was in at the time they were making the movie. And thus the plot lends itself to fourth wall jokes that were so prevalent in the early films.
It is, for the most part, a return to form. This is old school muppet humor at its best. You have the silly and catchy musical numbers, mixed in with a bit of sincere songs, celebrity cameos, fourth wall jokes, pop culture humor, a self aware plot that frequently pokes fun at itself, Fozzie's bad jokes, Statler and Waldorf's heckling, a Kermit and Miss Piggy romance plot, and just general wackiness and slapstick.
Still, as similar as it is to the old Muppet formula, it's also quite different. After Disney took over, human characters often played larger roles in the Muppet films. That is the case with this one. In fact, much of the plot and humor in this film is not centered around the muppets at all, but are centered around the two human characters and the new muppet. While some may be disappointed by this change, I have to disagree and say that, for this film, it works and works quite well. Still, it's clear that Disney doesn't have much confidence in The Muppets holding the film together on their own, like they did in the original (and best) Muppet Movie.
As a result there are times where the movie feels less like a Muppet Movie and more like a tribute to the Muppets. In some ways this is the film's strength, in other cases it is a weakness. Also, some of the bits in the second half seem a bit awkward and fall flat, often on purpose, but usually it isn't worth the payoff. Nevertheless, this film hits on an emotional and nostalgic level, especially for those who grew up with The Muppets. There were times when I actually felt a tear come to my eye. It's that moving.
The film's success so far has been warranted, and I'm hopeful that Disney will do the right thing and green light "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made", a project Henson and Oz had been pushing for since 1985. There were even plans to make it in 2009, but the project was set aside for this film instead. Hopefully, this last idea by Jim Henson will be the next sequel, the premise certainly looks like it has potential.