|Review: The Muppets|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Tuesday, 07 February 2012 13:25|
Director: James Bobin
Nostalgia. Noun. A warm fuzzy thing that looks back on the past.
The Muppets. Noun. A warm fuzzy thing that looks back on the past.
You might easily confuse the two entries in the dictionary. The easiest way to tell the difference? Only one of them makes you laugh. And has legs. And arms. And Jason Segel. (Hint: it's the one that's out in cinemas this weekend.)
The Muppets is all about catching up with the past. From the 1950s sky blue suits that Gary (Segel) and Walter (Linz) wear to the cathode ray TV on which they watch The Muppet Show as kids, it's a 109-minute tribute to Jim Henson's creation - and the fans that spent their formative years loving it. It takes the form, naturally, of a traditional Muppet movie: an evil, rich, old baron from Texas - Tex Richman (Cooper) - has taken away The Muppet's studio. How can they raise the money to buy it back? Simple: put on a show.
"We haven't seen each other for a very long time," croaks Kermit. In an age of reality TV, the world has moved on from felt-based entertainment. Who cares? Do The Muppets? Gonzo is busy running a toilet factory, Miss Piggy is Editor of Paris Vogue and Fozzie is performing in back-street pubs with a tribute act, The Moopets ("Wocka Wocka," says his streetwise counterpart, probably wielding a bike chain).
Jason Segel's script, written with Nicholas Stoller, leaves it to Gary, Mary (Adams) and Walter to get the gang back together. It's a smart move that gives newcomers a way in: they may not know who Rizzo the Rat is, but they can get to know Peter Linz's well-meaning puppet. And so the group travel the globe, by road, by montage - and by map.
Along the way, we get the traditional mix of music and celebrity appearances. The cameos may not always impress, but the music nails the tone perfectly. Bringing on Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie is pretty much the best move Bobin could have made - his songs are witty, catchy and know when to drop the irony. "Life's a happy song, with someone by your side to sing along" smile Segel and Adams in a rousing opening number, before the main soul-searching number hits: "Am I a man or a Muppet?" By the time Chris Cooper gets his vocal chords out, you'll be desperate to join in.
It all builds up to a final telethon that directly recalls the original series. Variety acts and visual gags are volleyed from the theatre stage with relentless energy. The audience may be empty (save for Zach Galifianakis as the resident hobo), but still they play the music and light the lights. Is it enough to win over a new audience? By basing the film in the past, The Muppets are playing to a crowd who already know them. But their unique brand of nostalgia is so warm and fuzzy that it's hard for anyone to resist. Life's a happy song, with someone by your side to sing along. And The Muppets knows that will never change.
The Muppets is most sensational, inspirational, celebrational and Muppetational. (Except for all the Cars 2 adverts that pop up in the background.)
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