Best soccer team EVER.

Theatrical Release Date: 11/23/2011
Director: James Bobin
Cast: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Steve Whitmire (voice), Eric Jacobson (voice), Dave Goelz (voice), Bill Barretta (voice), David Rudman (voice), Matt Vogel (voice), Jack Black
Rated: PG for some mild rude humor.
Runtime: 1 hour, 38 minutes


Kermit, look out behind you!

“It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.”

With those lyrics, millions of children and adults alike were all set to enjoy the antics of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the gang each week on television, and again in a number of feature films. It’s been 12 years since the last theatrically released Muppet film (“Muppets from Space”) although they haven’t gone away completely – thanks to various TV specials, guest appearances, and direct-to-DVD films. The release of “The Muppets” does feel a little bit like Hollywood continuing its trend of taking a nostalgic property and cashing in but it’s forgivable because it’s one of the few franchises still capable of plausible resurrection.

Before getting to the feature film, however, there’s one key reason it’s significant that Disney bought the rights to the Muppets brand in 2004: It allows them to show a Pixar short film from the Toy Story universe beforehand. Entitled “Small Fry”, this one centers on Buzz Lightyear as he gets left behind in a fast food restaurant and meets the discarded toys from kids meals. It takes place after “Toy Story 3” so some of the newer toys are included as well, and there even a tiny kids meal version of Buzz that gets in on the action. It’s a funny, well-conceived short film and the best thing Pixar has done since the last Toy Story short (seeing as the feature that followed that, “Cars 2“, was their first true miss).

So, if you’re headed to the theater to see “The Muppets”, make sure you arrive in plenty of time to get settled in before the movie starts. But wait, you say, is the feature film worth seeing? Well … yes and no.

As a fan of the Muppets, growing up with their varied exploits, it was great fun to see them back on-screen. Coming off his vampire puppet show in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall“, it seemed like a smart choice to let Jason Segal star and co-write this film. He and co-writer Nicholas Stoller were smart to include a number of the iconic songs and bits from the TV show, the concept of Segal having an actual Muppet for a brother was interesting, Amy Adams is capital ‘A’ Adorable, there are plenty of celebrity cameos, and they even got a seasoned actor like Chris Cooper to play the villain.

Sounds great, right? Well, unfortunately, it seems Segal loves one thing just as much as the Muppets: himself. There’s way too much of him and Adams in the picture, each having a full musical number that could have been excised without anyone caring. Also, in bothering to deal with a small romantic tiff between the two, it didn’t allow for better exploration of the falling out between Kermit and Miss Piggy … who, you know, ARE THE MUPPETS! (There’s also the issue of most of the original voice cast not being included so a few of the Muppets sound just a touch off, but for the most part it’s decent.)

More importantly, the film also suffers from yo-yo syndrome, going up and down in energy constantly; leading to a lot of restlessness from a good portion of the little kids in the screening audience. Even with a relatively decent runtime of 98 minutes, a good 15 of those could have been easily cut out without altering the main plot (like the extra bits with Segal and Adams). And then there’s the one scene in the movie that quite possible could be the worst 2 minutes on film in 2011 (I haven’t seen “Jack and Jill” yet so this could change): Chris Cooper raps.


Double Ugh.

Oh my stars and garters this is embarrassing you’re so much better than this Chris Cooper UGH.

Yes, while a happy bouncing ball follows along on subtitles, Chris Cooper is forced to deliver what might be the worst rap song in the history of rap songs (move over Vanilla Ice). It’s the single most cringe-worthy scene on celluloid this year and how this didn’t get a rewrite or literally engulfed in flames is unconscionable.

Yet somehow, and in keeping with the up and down nature of the film itself, there are still decent reasons to make this worth a look … if you’re a huge Muppet fan … and in the comfort of your own home. There just isn’t enough here to justify a trip to the theaters and it will take nearly every ounce of your nostalgia to tip the scales of this badly plotted movie in your favor (although it’s not in 3D, so that’s a plus). There is a sigh of relief in seeing that the Muppets, in “The Muppets”, were treated overall with affection and respect. It’s just too bad the humans who treated them with that affection and respect had to get in the way so much, and the overall result is a 2.5 out of 5.

2.5 out of 5