80’s Robot is my favorite.

The Muppets is easily one of the best of the nostalgia-fueled movies that have risen up like the undead that they are these past few years. The reason why it is so is that it knows when to be sarcastic about nostalgia while also genuinely making us care about Walter, the new Muppet and ultimate Muppet fanboy and unrepentant manchild. I’m not so sure how much of a real review I can write about this movie since things start to get weird if you hold them up to scrutiny (especially Walter) while not necessarily having much qualitative significance. I suppose thinking about the fact that Gonzo’s nose looks like a cock is interesting and all, especially realizing that it is probably intentional now that I’m an adult and notice things like that. Still, that kind of shit (or say for instance that he’s married to a chicken?) just means The Muppets is ridiculous.

It is ridiculous, by the way, and probably not as heart-warming as it wanted to be but it is funny and thoroughly entertaining. Even the songs aren’t bad, with the stand-out being “Muppet of a Man”. Most of the humor is wordplay and the kind of self-aware but sincere sarcasm that we should have an easy familiarity with and appreciation for. I mean, Jason Segel did write this and it is of a kind with his other films though significantly less raunchy for obvious reasons. The Muppets does acquit itself very well as the “family film” as it kept both me and my seven year old invested. While it’s plot and themes aren’t notably moving, they are more than the skeletal bullshit that family movies usually get away with and there’s even some interesting stuff there that I’ll get to.

Jason Segel and Amy Adams head up the human cast, most of which is comprised by cameos. Also, I fucking love Rowlf.

There’s a lot of love in this movie. Segel has long been known as a big Jim Henson fan and showed more than a little of that in Forgetting Sarah Marshal. What provides the initial spark that makes a project like this works is just that enthusiasm and mixed in with Segel’s completely affable demeanor, it’s a potent mixture. His personality is all over this film without that becoming masturbatory or narcissistic. It’s beyond question that the guy loves the Muppets and while a tad unconvincing, the part where it turns out that everybody still loves them and they aren’t really forgotten, rings out as a bit of blissful wishful thinking that may come from an idealized world but probably belongs in this one.

Adams, unfortunately, is the same old wet blanket female character that always seems to pop up in the sort of movies that deal with the childish obsessions of nerdy men. This is a shame cuz, for once, it’d be nice to see the enthusiastic girlfriend who cares about more than just checks in boxes on her personal list of relationship cliches. This kind of shit indicates that there’s a version of women that, while perhaps knowingly skewed, is just some nonsense that men think up when trying to figure out what makes women tick. Sure Mary is understandably frustrated by Gary’s behavior and sure this sort of thing probably does mar otherwise happy couplings, but it is too heavily contingent on assumptions about what men and women are (separately) interested in or “about” to be authentic. It’s a comforting myth, I guess, but utterly inauthentic too.

The Muppets, predictably, acknowledges the responsibilities of relationships and adulthood while also maintaining its defense and celebration of the nerd. This is fine and well but if there’s one legitimate criticism I would hang on the film (and its writers, led by Segel), it’s that they ought to know this trope is utterly familiar and seems lazy by now. If you’re going to include it, even in a fucking Muppet movie, please bother to develop it or take it somewhere fresh.

Oops. Guess this just turned into a real review.

Chris Cooper fucking steals this movie, especially in his gangsta rap bit. Holy Moly.

The plot of The Muppets involves Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) who has bought out the Muppet Studios because there is oil underneath it. While some will take this as some sign that Segel et al wanted to include a little commentary on corporate bigotry and the all-consuming evil of the oil industry and the fatcats that drive it, it actually has the effect of undermining the seriousness of those issues and treating them like a cartoon. Perhaps this is intentional but it feels like bad form. It’s not like that stuff is sacred and beyond satire, but a little effort please? As it is, the whole thing is so thin that it becomes ineffectual either as commentary or comedy.

Added to that, there’s a weird penchant for the movie to push a version of “wholesome entertainment” almost always by unsubtle portrayals of villains and “unsavory” elements as icons of pop culture like the gangsta or thug or whatever. The Moopets, basically a small group of evil bizarro Muppets, are all caricatures of various “bad apples” and they all pretty much look like inner city kids which is kind of fucked up and hilarious.

Also hilarious is Walter’s big talent, which is to whistle majestically. It reminds me of a bit from The Ricky Gervais Show in which Karl Pilkington explains that his artistic expression is whistling. Getting what I got out of this kind of depends on awareness of another bit of media, but still: funny. Otherwise it’s just that last minute heroic showing up that these kinds of movies usually pull and while Walter’s whistling is good for what it is, it’s not much of a show-stopper. That might sound grouchy but trust me when I say that I found the scene hilarious… just for kinda particular reasons.

Walter is clearly in love with Kermit.

The tone of this review may have gone against The Muppets a bit. It’s an easy movie to enjoy and thus easy to let off the critical hook, which is exactly what I thought I was going to do when I sat down to write about it. I was like, why am I doing this? What is there really to say? I guess plenty. The Muppets is flawed, basically, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good or enjoyable or a lot of fun because it is also all of those things. And I really do hope it relaunches these characters and that Segel stays on top of any franchise that springs out of this movie. That said, I hope they do better with the cameos in future installments since most of them fall flat here. In fact, I can’t think of a single memorable one. Jack Black is pretty awful too.

Shit, there I go again. Why can’t you just enjoy the movie, Evan? Is it because Gonzo’s nose looks like a cock and he’s married to a chicken?It is, isn’t it? Well yeah. That’s pretty weird. I did enjoy it, though, and I maniacal laughed about it every time I saw him. That’s worth something, even if I do have my criticisms, and I don’t feel any reservations about recommending The Muppets to pretty much anyone.

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