Saturday, November 26, 2011

At the Movies: The Muppets (2011)

Overall Rating: 9.999999 - or is that 0.0999999, you'll have to ask Fozzy (joke from the movie)

I have one tiny complaint with this movie...but it winds up not mattering much - just trust me on that.

Plot Synopsis:

After long years of neglect, the Muppet Theater in Los Angeles is reaching the end of its' lease and an oil magnate plans to purchase it - ostensibly to turn it into a Muppet Museum.  In secret, however, he's discovered that the lot sits on top of a rich deposit of oil and he intends to tear down the site and go drilling.  The only way to save the theater (and incidentally, the rights to the use of the term "Muppet" - which our evil corporate shill will use to back a new group of harder, edgier Muppets that he thinks will sell better) is to raise 10 million dollars by the end of the less than two weeks.  Our unsung hero - obviously a Muppet...overhears the details and, with the help of his human companion Gary and his somewhat alienated girlfriend Mary (who he's been dating for ten years!), Walter seeks out Kermit the Frog and they get the band back together bit by bit.  They then pitch the idea of a Muppet telethon and variety show to get the business going one last time.

They finally convince one TV exec - who makes the case that the Muppets just aren't cool anymore and won't sell, but then agrees to give them two hours after one of her shows (Punch Teacher!) is sued - but under the stipulation that they must find a human celebrity host and fill the audience for the show, which must go on in two days.  After a lovely cleaning montage, the theater looks new again and the talent assembles for their rehearsals (minus Ms. Piggy, who was hurt by Kermit's refusal to be in a relationship with her if all she was seeking was fame).  The first tries are disastrous as everyone is rusty and many of them need Animal's drum-beat to keep time (he's refusing to drum on the advice of his anger management counselor...LOL).  But, like all theatrical productions, it comes together (it's a miracle!).  Of course they at first have no audience, but people begin to trickle in as the show starts - with special guest host Jack Black (kidnapped to fill this role and spending the entire show tied to a chair begging people to believe hi that it's not part of the act...and groaning at Fozzy's horrible jokes!).

Meanwhile, Ms. Piggy has returned, but is, for a time, frosty to Kermit...and Kermit has spent the last several hours trying to convince Walter that he should be a part of the show if he can look inside himself and find a talent to show off.  When it's Walter's turn to perform, he panics and breaks through the wall of the theater to escape.  But during the show, Kermit explains to Piggy that he has always needed her in his life and is just not good at saying so and tries to get her to accept that she doesn't need the whole world to like her if he does.  And Gary, who has gone home to be with Mary (who feels a bit jealous that he's spending all his time with Walter and the other Muppets), comes back to save the show from the oil baron and to convince Walter that he needs to grow up and believe in himself.  Walter finally summons the courage to get on stage just in the nick of time for the final act and he would have propelled the Muppets to a victory and their 10 million if not for a phone-line interruption caused by the baron.  The Muppets lose the battle and are forced to leave the theater...only to discover that legions of their fans have gathered outside to cheer their heroic show.  Walter joins the Muppets as a full time cast member, Gary finally proposes to Mary, the oil baron gives back the theater after Gonzo knocks him over the head with a thrown bowling ball and they end on a big happy note with promises of more Muppet adeventures to come.

The Skinny:

The thing that always made Jim Henson productions great was their commitment to the steadfast believe that if we believe that children can follow a wholesome, imaginative story, learn moral and life lessons that will follow them through life, and have enough of an attention span to stick with you...they will do all of those things.  This movie basically concentrated decades worth of classic Henson studio magic into 90 minutes of awesome.  It stands like a great beacon in the night - stubbornly refusing to accept that a successful formula from 1985 that was based on faith in our children would fail today simply because society has moved on and is now "harder and edgier."  Well let me be the first say...HELL YEAH.  Society isn't some sentient being that changes by itself in some organic way over which we have no control.  We live in a world shaped by our own creations.  "Punch Teacher" style TV only sells because no one else is challenging this mindless, sensational garbage.  You can damn well guarantee that if the Muppets came back to prime time, many of the over 100 million Americans in nuclear families with children would be clamoring to watch something about which they need not worry if their kids see.  Especially if that show included humor that appealed to all generations, brightened our days with laughter and song and a belief in the possible and the wonderful, and came with characters we could easily learn to love again.

But the virtues don't end with that clarion of hope for a future not dragged inexorably into sensationalism, sex and violence. any good Muppets episode, this movie tackled real life morals and lessons in a sensitive, loving way that is unmatched in children's programming today.  We had Kermit's struggle to express how he feels properly to Ms. Piggy - followed by one of the most important things a child can ever learn.  Namely, Kermit convinces Ms. Piggy that if she's ever going to be happy in a relationship, she can't try to be loved by the entire world - she has to focus on the one she loves.  If more of us understood that a pair bond implies a certain exclusivity that makes it the wonderful and intimate thing that it is...we'd be much happier in relationships.

And there's more...because it also brings home the point that the most important part of growing up is learning who and what you are and making a conscious choice to prioritize some parts of yourself in the pursuit of what you really want.  This is one of the hardest things for young adults to do...give up some dreams to pursue others.  But this is exactly what Walter and Gary must do.  And it means that they will have to go their separate ways...but they do so knowing that they will always be there for each other in times of need.  This kind of struggle is played out in most American families as children grow up and become their own people, and only the Muppets could show it while keeping a smile on all our faces.

Just trust me...the Muppets will make you cry - just as they do on Farscape and did when you were a kid.  They still have the magic over there...and this movie is among the most refreshing, wonderful things to hit the big screen in recent memory.

Writing: 9.9

I'm dinging it 0.1 for interrupting Kermit's big speech to the ad exec for a silly bit of slapstick comedy.  He was about to make the passionate plea that if we believed in children, they would amaze us and he got cut off for no good reason.  Otherwise...this movie is awesome personified.

Acting: 9.5

I thought the guy who played Gary was a little...erm..."Blues Clues"-ish.  That was probably intentional, but still...occasionally it seemed silly.

Production: 10.0

80s production values still work for these delivers everything it promises.

Message: However many points I need to get to my final score...LOL

The message here is way way WAAAAY off the charts.  It blows away the other elements of this movie and renders component scoring meaningless.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I'll have to go see that movie later this week.