I have often — and even recently — noted my fondness for Kermit and all things muppety in this space. Jim Henson’s sudden death from a bout with pneumonia which he unfortunately left untreated still feels like a great loss. So suffice it to say, I looked forwarded to the release of the new movie The Muppets as much as any father of three with a good excuse to stand in line early for its release (“It’s for the kids.”). Why I might have thought it advisable to wake the kids from a deep slumber to take them to the midnight debut of the flick this morning, however, may be a question only Dr. Bunsen Honeydew could answer.
The verdict? It’s not the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational muppet movie of all time (the original Muppet Movie gets that award), but it’s worth the 10 bucks, if you temper your expectations. Mostly family fare, though writer Jason Segal (of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and similar ilk) naturally worked some more, shall we say, colorful gags into the flick. Especially noteworthy on that front is a cross-dressing Miss Piggy “impersonator” in a Muppets tribute group with which Fozzie is found working in Reno (that particular gag fell flat, as the pig was boorish and a boring brute). The “plot,” as it were, is thin gruel typical of kids flicks these days — an evil oil baron is going to tear down the Muppet theater to drill for oil in Hollywood, that noted oil field, and the muppets have to do one last show to save the theater. (The evil oil corporation is a growing cliche of these movies — summer toon Cars II had some sort of oil company-is-going-to-destroy the world plot as well. Even a little imagination by Hollywood writers would go a long way.). Some pretty good musical numbers and original songs – especially Kermit’s “The Pictures in My Head,” a sentimental ballad that plucks hard on the heart strings. Some other felt a bit forced, but mostly amusing. Overall, it felt as much a The Muppet Show infomercial than anything. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the show was must-watch fare for much of my generation.
It’s apparently been more than a decade since the Muppets made a movie, though in my household those movies — and the original shows — are on all the time, so they weren’t necessarily missed. The Muppets ranks somewhere above Muppets from Space and The Great Muppet Caper, but behind The Muppets Take Manhattan and well behind The Muppet Movie. It’s breezy and light, which you would hope for a movie like this, and entertaining for kids of all ages and muppet experience. It’s a “go see,” but no need to rush out to the midnight showings.