The Muppets – BlogalongaMuppets 7

Over 12 years since their last cinematic release, and over 30 years since The Muppet Show finished on the small screen, the Muppets have split up, their studios have fallen into disrepair and Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) wants to buy the land to drill for oil. Enter Walter (a puppet/Muppet?) and Gary (Jason Segel), a pair of brothers determined to help reunite the Muppets and raise the $10 million they need to save their studio. Given two hours of primetime TV to hold a telethon by a desperate studio exec (Rashida Jones), the gang have just days to put together a revival of The Muppet Show.

Amy Adams is also in the cast as Gary’s fiancĂ©e in a wholly redundant sub-plot about nothing much at all, but I’ll mostly be ignoring that part of the film. Other criticisms (let’s get them out of the way) include the fact that the premise of a telethon allows for a few too many brief celebrity cameos, and that some jokes are better in the set-up than the execution – the Muppet collecting montage is a prime example. The Muppets is also guilty of overusing green screen to get the Muppets in a variety of locations and doing things impossible for a puppet to do. I understand this can save time and money but it also takes away from the rustic charm of the Muppets.

Griping over.

At its heart The Muppets is one great big love letter to the Muppets. The film is a celebration of our favourite felt-based friends and acknowledges the TV and film heritage they have created. This is most evident in this instalment’s connections to 1979’s The Muppet Movie, not only is one song from this film reprised on-stage but the Standard Rich and Famous Contract, which the Muppets receive at the end of The Muppet Movie, serves as the Maguffin in The Muppets. This is roughly as intellectual as I can get.

Present but never overused is the standard Muppet meta-humour, the characters are aware that this is a film, and after the disappointment of Muppets from Space, the songs are back. And what amazing songs! Man or Muppet truly deserves to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. It is clear that Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords wrote the songs as they have that distinct Conchordian sound, and are all the better for it. My acid test for a musical is whether or not the songs are in my head the next day, and Man or Muppet was ringing loud and clear in my brain for the rest of the week. Job done.

There is so much to love about this film that the few flaws are easily forgiven and The Muppets ends up being a superior production to the early Muppet films it is paying tribute to. I left the cinema with a massive grin on my face, a song in my heart and a skip in my step. There was also a book in my bag, but this is unrelated.

The Muppets is a joy, made for the fans but surely just as enjoyable for the uninitiated.

Only one question remains about The Muppets, where the hell was Rizzo!?

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
2. Muppet Treasure Island
3. The Muppets
4. The Muppets Take Manhattan
5. The Great Muppet Caper
6. The Muppet Movie
7. Muppets from Space

Muppets from Space – BlogalongaMuppets 6

We’re nearly at the end of our BlogalongaMuppets journey and our penultimate stop is with Muppets from Space. This time round the literary adaptations have been abandoned, the Muppets are all living together and Gonzo is having an identity crisis. Just as Gonzo is wondering what he is, and where he came from, he starts to receive mysterious messages in his cereal and through his dreams suggesting an extraterrestrial connection. Naturally the government tries to kidnap Gonzo and he must escape in time to meet his relatives from beyond the stars.

This entire review could simply be a .gif of me slowly shaking my head in disgust. Muppets from Space does not feel like a Muppet movie and for the most part doesn’t even feel like a proper movie. The quality of film here is more on par with their TV-only fare like It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and is a far cry from The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. The plot is weak, most Muppets are underused and there aren’t even any proper songs. No songs in a Muppet movie, the cheek of it!

While it is nice to have Jeffrey Tambor playing the token bad guy, and his bear sidekick was a good source of humour, this does not excuse the bizarre cameo from half the cast of Dawson’s Creek (in character but without Dawson himself) and the general lack of wit or intelligence. You can have as many clever movie references as you like but these cannot save the worst Muppet outing so far.

My final complaint is just how perverted the Muppets seem to have become. Every other Muppet made a sexual advance on one human or another and I’m sure at one point it was implied that Animal had sex with Kathy Griffin’s security guard, an image none of us want planted into our mind’s eye. Can’t we be satisfied with keeping the parents amused with a clever homage to Independence Day and not reduce the Muppets to sex pests?

Muppets from Space was a real disappointment, made all the worse for following the two strongest Muppet instalments. Watching it simply wasn’t fun, and fun is what the Muppets are all about. Thankfully Rizzo and his fellow rats were there to provide me with the occasional moment of comic relief. I love those little guys so much.

I think before you answer that question you’d better be real clear on the final destination of that finger.

Only one question remains, who is taking me to see The Muppets?

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
2. Muppet Treasure Island
3. The Muppets Take Manhattan
4. The Great Muppet Caper
5. The Muppet Movie
6. Muppets from Space

Out Now – 10th February 2012

The Muppets
All I can think is that it is the final month of BlogalongaMuppets and still need to watch Muppets in Space before I can skip along to the cinema to see this latest instalment in the Muppet franchise, written by and starring Jason Segel with music from half of Flight of the Conchords. I can’t even begin to think about the plot, involving the Muppets reuniting to save their old theatre from an oil tycoon.

The Vow
Valentine’s day is next week and so Hollywood has vomited up a good of fashioned romance for us all to avoid as we try to convince ourselves that being single is best, honest. Rachel McAdams is a woman suffering severe memory loss after waking from a coma and Channing Tatum is the husband who has to win her heart all over again. I feel sick.

Big Miracle
In Alaska a town unites to try to save grey whales trapped by rapidly forming ice. [Insert joke about Sarah Palin or global warming, or a weak pun about Wales]

The Woman in Black
Danny Radcliffe (let’s see if that catches on) in his first post-Potter lead role. Pretty classic horror territory as a young lawyer discovers a vengeful ghost is terrorising villagers. Plenty of wandering dark houses waiting for things to jump out. The play nearly made me wet myself so this film has a lot to live up to.

A Dangerous Method (London only until 17th February)*
Sexy drama about the birth of psychoanalysis from proud parents Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender in his third film of the year. Third! I barely knew who he was last year.) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo “Aragorn” Mortensen). Keira Knightley is on hand to do a bit of an accent and get spanked, it’s enough to make me blush.

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (limited release)
Hindi comedy in which “a few drinks too many leads an uptight architect and quick-witted hairstylist to marry in Las Vegas. Can a mistake lead to friendship and love?” Yes, probably.

Girl Model (limited release)
A “thriller” documentary following “a complex supply chain between Siberia, Japan, and the U.S. within the modeling industry. The story is told through the eyes of the scouts, agencies and a 13 year-old model.” It all sounds a little creepy to me.

Casablanca (limited release)
For its 70th anniversary this classic film (you feel you should have seen so bought on DVD last week from HMV but now kind of want to see on the big screen if you can find anyone to go with you)** is back in selected cinemas.

American Evil (limited release)
Released in America way back in March 2008 we finally get to see Bradley Cooper in an odd-looking drama about a sinister priest and dodgy activities in a Native American boarding school. What a poster!

*Confession: It is late on Thursday and I’ve only just realised that A Dangerous Method actually only comes out in London for the first week. By this point I am too lazy to Photoshop Kermit’s mug into another film still, so let’s all pretend that the film is out today. It’s what Fassbender would want.
**Just me?

Muppet Treasure Island – BlogalongaMuppets 5

I am relishing this section of BlogalongaMuppets as we are in the period of the Muppets which overlapped with my childhood. How can you not love a Muppet film if you first saw it at the age of eight?

Following on from The Muppet Christmas Carol Disney have tried to replicate that winning formula by adapting another classic novel in the unique Muppet way. This time we have a young Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) and his best friends Rizzo the Rat and The Great Gonzo, who are given a treasure map and set sail on the big blue wet thing, looking for adventure. Captaining their ship is a certain green frog and taking the role of lead famous human actor is the always entertaining Tim Curry as Long John Silver. Tim Curry plays the treacherous pirate with such relish it is a joy to watch.

All of my praise for this film is pretty much the same as that which I heaped on The Muppet Christmas Carol. The film has a tight plot, is funny throughout and is filled with catchy songs. The humour never becomes too meta and there are no cameos for cameos sake; Jennifer Saunders and Billy Connolly both give great performances at the start of the film and both have something to do beyond being a recognisable face.

The winning formula for a great Muppet film is for our felt covered friends to adapt a classic novel, have a respected British actor in the lead human role and have decent songs. Christmas Carol and Treasure Island also share the trait of not being afraid of being dark in places, the opening song in Muppet Treasure Island ends with a whole pirate crew being shot. As Rizzo said, “He died? And this is supposed to be a kids’ movie!”.

As usual I want to give a quick nod to the various Muppet rats who throughout the pirate adventure have their own sub-plot as Rizzo has a side business running a rat cruise on-board the pirate boat. There’s something about rats behaving like humans on holiday that tickles me beyond explanation. Look at their teeny clothes!

You wanna knock it off with the booze? It’s peeling the paint off of the shuffleboard court.

In short, Muppet Treasure Island is amazing and I will never tire of it. Sadly The Muppet Christmas Carol just pips it to the top spot (so far) by virtue of being a Christmas film and therefore automatically being slightly better.

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
2. Muppet Treasure Island
3. The Muppets Take Manhattan
4. The Great Muppet Caper
5. The Muppet Movie

The Best is Yet to Come: 2012

As much as we are obliged to look back over the year just gone, we are obliged to look ahead at the year just beginning. It’s always exciting to look at the next twelve months and all the exciting treats that are coming to our screens. Below are my personal picks of the films worth seeing in 2012, and I’m hoping there will be many more besides, a few gems I haven’t even heard of yet. Continue reading