Review – The Muppets
2011, 103 mins, U, Dir. James Bobin, starring Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper and The Muppets.
Everyone knows who their favourite Muppet is. In the February edition of Empire, dozens of celebrities gave their verdicts on the character that has most inspired them (mine is the Swedish chef). In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard a single thing about Jim Henson’s puppet creations. After the highly successful Muppet TV show in the 1970s, a number of films were produced, ranging from the surprisingly good (The Muppet Christmas Carol) to disappointing TV specials (The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz). Despite their continued popularity, the iconic creatures haven’t made their way onto the big screen since 1999.
But that’s all about to change. Hitting UK cinemas on Friday is their new film, simply titled “The Muppets“, a film that has received universal critical acclaim. And it’s not hard to see why. Their latest outing is stylistically quite different from all that has come before it. For one thing, it’s incredibly frenetic, almost as frenetic as Animal (although in the film he is living in a celebrity anger-management clinic) and the song and dance numbers have a wonderful feeling of spontaneity. No surprise there, as the film is directed by James Bobin, creator of Flight of the Conchords, who uses his absurd sense of humour to great effect. Bret Mackenzie, one of the conchords, also contributes by writing some songs for the film – “Man or Muppet” has now been nominated for an Oscar. The humour is intelligent and often self-referential, Fozzie Bear at one point exclaiming “Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion! I can’t believe we had that in the budget.”
The three (human) leads do a great job and Chris Cooper is hilarious as the (admittedly rather stereotypical) greedy oil magnate, especially when he randomly bursts into song halfway through and frequently demands “maniacal laughter” from his henchmen. The film is especially noteworthy for its vast range of celebrity cameos, harking back to the days of the Muppet Show, which saw the likes of Peter Sellers and Steve Martin as guest hosts. This time round, there are appearances from Jack Black (whom the Muppets kidnap in a kind of spoof Chinese martial-arts scene), Ken Jeong, Kristen Schaal (a lead character in the conchords show), Alan Arkin, Zack Galifianakis, Jim Parsons, Emily Blunt and numerous others. Elmo sadly doesn’t appear for legal reasons (although a documentary on his puppeteer, Being Elmo, was widely acclaimed recently).
It is a real joy to see the Muppets back on top form. They are still as funny as ever, spurred on by Kermit’s neverending optimism (and Miss Piggy’s neverending vanity). The story isn’t quite as dazzling as its numbers but it’s conceptually very impressive. The freshness of this new offering is something to behold, and it certainly proves Bobin as one of the most creative directors around. It’s good to have you back, Kermit.
4 stars out of 5