Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Do you like joy?

Jon Stewart started talking about attending a Bruce Springsteen concert with that question. I found it hilarious, because it was true. I could ask the same thing about seeing The Muppets, Disney's 100% well-handled return of Jim Henson's creations to the big screen. 

The bottom line is, I think you'd have to be pretty cold-hearted to be of my generation and not be moved by this film. It's chock full of good will and positive energy. Even if you find nits to pick, the overall effort is so energized, and so on-task to the spirit that Henson himself imbued the characters with, that you have to let it evaporate.

I defy anyone to watch the sequence where The Rainbow Connection is fully performed to tell me this film doesn't capture the spirit of the Muppets. Yes, elements are updated, but not changed. Star/co-screenwriter Jason Segel has imagined a history that leaves untouched the "classic" Muppet projects, but sets up a quest/road picture that, yes, sows some seeds of discontent between the old team.

Personally, I had no problem with that. The characters did not become coarse, or stray from the personalities we remember, but they had moved on in logical ways. Fozzie still, desperately, trying to stay in showbiz. Piggy moving into high fashion. Gonzo becoming a plumbing magnate.

Yeah, that last one was odd, but IT'S GONZO. Plus, I chuckled heartily at the gentle dig at fears of "toilet humor" seeping into the proceedings.

There's a number of jokes like that, where Segel, with co-writer Nicholas Stoller, and director James Bobin stick in elements that, I'm sure, fans were terrified might rear up in a "re-invention." "The Moopets,"  ghettoized, crude versions of our familiar troupe comes right to mind. (Frankly, I'd have liked to see more of them...the idea tickles me so much...a "perform off" with the originals, or something. It also provides a funny celebrity cameo.)

Special kudos to Chris Cooper, who is nothing short of wonderful as Tex Richman, and my friends can thank him when I'm driving them nuts with, "Evil Laugh....Evil Laugh..." Let me just say this...the man can rap. Also, I can't tell you how much loved Uncle Deadly and ESPECIALLY Bobo the Bear as his partners in crime. Bobo SLAYED me in almost every scene. Genius work from Muppeteer Bill Barretta.

I really enjoyed Segel and Amy Adams as our main human protagonists. They were cute, which is pretty much the whole job. There's also Walter, our new Muppet. He, in many ways, drives the story. Just about every original character gets a good bit, or two, but there is a lot of ground to cover. I think Gonzo got a bit of a short shrift.

The new songs, by Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie, are pretty good. I enjoyed all of them, but some of them, specifically Man or Muppet, sound an awful lot like Flight of the Conchords numbers. I'm luke-warm on that show/band, so your mileage may vary.

I also wonder about the Gary (Segel)/Walter relationship. They're brothers, but one is a Muppet? Then Mary (Adams) refers to Walter as Gary's "friend?" Aren't they brothers?

Aw, the heck with it. Long story short, if you were worried about someone coming in and screwing up the Muppets, allay those fears. You can question if it's as good as Jim would've done himself, but it's a loving, respectful love letter to his creations.

One last bit...Thank you, God for Zach Galifianakis as Hobo Joe. Brilliant. Utterly.


  1. I love BOBO THE BEAR. Always. I don't know why. He's the best.

  2. It actually made me sad I had picked Sam the Eagle as my favorite Muppet to win the tickets. Bobo has always been hilarious.

  3. Saw it this afternoon ... I laugh and I cried. Loved the cameos, loved the references to the Muppets of yore. I can't wait to take my son.