Monday, 20 February 2012

The Muppets (2011) - Postmodern Pickmeup

There are times that call for laugh out loud sillyness.  The last fortnight has been just such a time.  I was so very pleasantly surprised by The Muppets movie which far exceeded the mediocre expectations I had, and caused me to swallow my own doubts that it might lift my spirits and bring a smile to my face.  I laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more.  Childlike fun intended for grown ups.   

The plot doesn't do the movie justice: Walter a wannabe-Muppet from Smalltown, USA (which bears an uncanny resemblance to Disney's Main Street) is overjoyed to take a 1950s vintage Greyhound to LA with his clueless brother, Gary and his girlfriend Mary (brilliantly played by Amy Adams).  Whilst visiting the derelict Muppet studio in Hollywood, the bizarrely naïve trio unsuspectingly stumble across the nefarious plan devised by evil real estate tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theatre and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets' former stomping grounds.

The Muppets are tasked with raising $10million to save the venue.  Gary and his gang conceive of a plan to stage 'The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever' and jump in offering their combined (if not terribly impressive) resources, to help Kermit (found hanging out in Bel-Air) traverse the globe and reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways.

We follow Kermit as he tracks down his old friends who have had to embark upon solo careers in the big old world.  He finds Fozzie performing with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets.  Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue in Paris, Animal has to be extracted from group therapy at the Santa Barbara clinic for anger management in which he is residing, and Gonzo takes some persuading to join the endeavour, having become a high-powered plumbing magnate.

Of course, our felt friends succeed in their mission and after kidnapping an unbilled Jack Black to be their unwilling headline act, they produce a show of which Mickey Rooney himself (who does a quick cameo early on) would be proud.  It was as hysterical as it was far fetched.  It was ridiculous in the extreme, and best of all, it knew it. 

There are some absolutely brilliant moments as the veteran entertainers make their first outing since Muppets from Space which was released in 1999.  I was mistrustful as to what Disney might do to my furry friends, having acquired the franchise from the Jim Henson estate in 2004.  I needn't have worried, the film is a family comedy in the true sense - fun for all generations.  Above all, it's disarmingly upfront about its raison d'etre - to reboot the Muppets for a new generation.  I'm hopeful it'll succeed, and that the Muppets will be around for some time yet.  In the meantime, this comeback proved thoroughly entertaining to myself, an old fan, in need of a mood transplant, and an excuse to indulge in a bit of childhood nostalgia. 

So, the Muppets have had a new lease of life.  And seeing the movie gave me a bit of the same.  Deliciously and deliriously entertaining.  With chirpy songs and boundless humour, the script is far from disappointing, with good cheer throughout alongside frank acknowledgement of the changing mores and time passed and even a wink at its own squeaky clean sillyness.  Seeking escape from seemingly relentless change, I was comforted and relieved that the Muppets continue to be played by real puppets and not by some newfangled technological rendition of them.  If it ain't broke...

For a taster of the film's upbeat score...

Life's a bed of roses in Smalltown, USA with "I've got everything I need"

Later, Gary faces an identity crisis with "Am I a Man or a Muppet?"

The Muppet ethos lives on with "Life's a Happy Song"

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