The Muppets Review
It’s time to play the music, light the lights and get things started…..the now legendary opening to one of the most beloved shows of all time, The Muppet Show. First introduced back in 1976, The Muppets were superstars of their era, and made millions of “lovers, dreamers and me” fall in love with them. But after superstar status back then, over recent times they have been away from our screens with only The Muppet Christmas Carol being a sizeable hit, and only popping up now and again with their great brand of comedy and warmth.
What this movie's creators, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, and director James Bobin have done somewhat bravely, is to present The Muppets as they have been in recent times: out of the limelight. Rather than a flashy, remake/reimagining of the shows and Muppet movies, Segel and co have created a story based around getting The Muppets back together.
The story centres around Muppet super-fan Walter, who along with older brother Gary (Segel) and Gary's fiancé Mary (Amy Adams), set off on a trip to Los Angeles, and with it, a visit to the Muppet Studios for a tour. But the Studios are deserted, and with The Muppets no longer together, Walter discovers a plan of battle by evil oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who plans to knock down the Muppet Theatre for financial supremacy. Cue a round-the-world search, travelling by map, to seek out the rest of The Muppets, who are in rather different circles now: Gonzo is the biggest toilet businessman in America; Fozzie a lounge singer in a downbeat hotel, and Miss Piggy now in the fashion industry. Together, the gang must reunite to stage the biggest Muppet telethon ever, in a last-ditch attempt to save their theatre.
The Muppets is impossible not to love. It’s a movie that is filled with so much joy, so much energy that even the most “maniacal” of people will be swept up in its charm. Segel and Stoller have taken all the elements that make The Muppets so superb and fused them with some brilliant in-jokes and a little satirical slant (see 80’s robot’s internet connection) to make 100 minutes of sheer joy. Musical numbers are catchy and playful (Oscar winner “Man or Muppet” the stand-out), jokes come thick and fast, and with the talents of Segel, the brilliant Adams and Cooper, the film is just magic from beginning to end.
If there is a criticism of the film, it is perhaps its over-indulgence of celebrity cameos, particularly those of Jack Black and Zach Galifianakis, whose now tired, one-trick comedy styles come across as tedious and annoying. But, thanks to the likes of Emily Blunt, here reprising her Devil Wears Prada performance, Rashida Jones and the superb Jim “Sheldon Cooper” Parsons, the cameos on the whole are brilliant. (Also, check out the deleted Billy Crystal/Ricky Gervais scene on the disc, a huge shame it didn’t make it to the final cut.)
Funny, heart-warming and as uplifting as anything you could wish to see, The Muppets is this year’s best family movie, and one you will want to watch again and again.
Presented by Disney here in 1.78:1 widescreen, and with 1080p high-definition picture, The Muppets looks as good as it feels. Full of vibrant colour and settings, the film looks superb on the disc with exceptional picture clarity highlighting everything from the fur on Kermit’s head, to the striking Los Angeles skyline. Blacks too are strong throughout, with a few blemishes in places, particularly in the night scenes, but nothing that will deter your viewing pleasure.
The audio too is exceptional, presented here in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Flight of the Conchords music genius Bret McKenzie was responsible for the songs in the movie, and they are given some wonderful treatment throughout. The opening number “Life’s a Happy Song” is full of energy and heart, and the array of instruments used to bring the song to life are beautifully represented here. The Oscar winner “Man or Muppet” is a stirring ballad that sounds superb, but it’s the famous “Rainbow Connection” that will get your hairs up on end here, with some wonderful banjo and piano combinations bringing the song back to life. In addition, the great vocal talents are presented superbly, with Segel, Adams and the Muppet vocal team blasting out the screen, almost encouraging you to jump up and get involved.
Extras-wise, there is an array of great features on the disc. The commentary from Jason Segel, James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller offers some welcome insight and laughs between them, all talking about how much fun it was to make a Muppet movie.
There is a making-of featuring all of the Muppets, as well as the usual array of interviews. In addition, there is “The Longest Muppet blooper reel in history” which has some funny moments; a collection of deleted scenes with the aforementioned Gervais/Crystal appearance, as well as an extended opening telethon scene; an extended version of the Ted Richman song and a screen test. The stand-out feature though is the collection of spoof trailers from the film's brilliant marketing push, with some superb riffs on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fast and Furious, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Green Lantern.
All in all, an excellent package from Disney, which coupled with the wonderful film, is an essential purchase this summer. Time to play the music once more…