The life of a person in current internet culture is a jaded one. We mock anything that dares achieve popularity as we play it safe in our 9 to 5 jobs that don’t challenge us mentally. We leave snarky comments on the most innocent YouTube videos that don’t even concern us. When a person challenges any stance we have we mock them instead of engaging in any sort of debate. It’s a negative culture and by no means am I exempt from the above charges. I crack jokes about Tim Tebow, I challenge right wingers with more intention to provoke than to incite conversation, and I often audibly dislike whatever musical group happens to be popular at any given time. While sometimes I manage to birth a witty line or two from these excursions, I don’t love that they are coming from places of negativity. I can’t change the fact that I’m a negative person overall, but I can try to put myself in situations where I can at least feel some amounts of joy.
If I’m really serious about doing that, all I would have to do is buy The Muppets on Blu-Ray or DVD and watch it whenever I felt the jaded part of my soul grow too strong.
The Muppets is 98 minutes long, and I assure you I was smiling for 105 minutes straight. Two minutes before it started I got a chill of excitement and started grinning, then I smiled throughout the entire film – not hyperbole – and afterwards I smiled for 5 minutes. I’m sure the people in the bathroom with me after the show were uncomfortable with the lanky guy who seemed to be way too content with evacuating his bladder, but I couldn’t help myself. I’m not sure I’ve experienced such pure joy in cinema in my entire life. Pure, unabashed, brilliant joy.
Part of the reason that this movie works so well is because the filmmakers clearly got it. Jason Segel, a documented Muppet lover, wrote it and captured the essence of each individual Muppet and the collective group perfectly. Animal’s small side-plot was particularly brilliant, and for my money the best secondary character arc in the whole film. The overall story was probably the weakest part of the film, but even in it’s struggles it was so self-referential that it was entirely forgivable. He also introduced a new Muppet named Walter who seems to be getting slightly mixed reviews. I didn’t have a problem with him. He brings a good positive energy, and helps push the film along without completely taking it over.
The acting is great. It seems they picked actors who really wanted to be a part of the project and who would bring their best stuff regardless of how small the cameo or part. Jason Segel and Amy Adams are the two main humans in the movie. They have a relatively cheesy and predictable story arc but it never dominates the screen so it’s never annoying. Chris Cooper plays the antagonist and has a scene stealing song about halfway through the film. Jack Black and Rashida Jones are the only two other non-Muppets who get significant screen time, and both are funny. In normal circumstances I would probably say they were underutilized. However this movie isn’t about the humans and they both played off the Muppets wonderfully.
As for the Muppets, I can’t think of any main ones that were completely ignored. Gonzo probably got the biggest shaft, but he is almost in the gray area between main Muppet and secondary Muppet. I know some people will be slightly bummed and think that their favorite character wasn’t represented as fully as they could have been, but in all honesty you can’t expect many secondary characters to get a bunch of screen time over Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie Bear. If you want them to get more screen time I suggest you go to the film and buy it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray and maybe they will make a sequel. My personal favorite character is Beaker and while I felt the same disappointment that he didn’t get more action, he did have the moment that made me laugh hardest. I can’t be too mad that they kept him mostly in the background when all he says is “mees” and “moos”.
I put The Muppets through the gauntlet on Flickchart and it ended up at my #77. The jaded part of my soul that is slowly reemerging as the hours continue to tick by since I’ve left the theater is already doubting its position. “How could you possibly allow it to be rated higher than three movies you think are damn near perfect: Ed Wood, The Social Network, and Jurassic Park!” I’m not going to say that it deserves to win Best Picture, but jaded Ryan can be a jerk sometimes, and joyful Ryan needs to win a few, so he’ll stay around.
At #77 it stays.
Well done Mr. Segel. Well done.