Wednesday, 28 December 2011
FILM REVIEW: THE MUPPETS
Walt Disney Studios Films
Unless parents have been paying due diligence in their caretaker roles, then the underlying premise of The Muppets - that Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo et al have faded from public consciousness - is a perfectly solid one, no matter how much Frank Oz, long time Jim Henson collaborator and the original voice of Miss Piggy, doth protest.
Serving as a wonderfully nostalgic dance down memory lane for those of us who grew up with Henson's creations, and a clever reboot of a dormant franchise (it's been 12 years since the Muppets graced the big screen), The Muppets succeeds as both old fashioned and post modern entertainment, and should have no trouble introducing/indoctrinating a whole new generation of devotees.
While Jim Henson passed away in 1990, and Frank Oz refused to be involved, director James Bobin, and star and writer, Jason Segel, whose pet project this was, have ensured that The Muppets has kept their legacy intact. And long time and hardcore fans will not be disappointed.
The plot of The Muppets is that hoary old chestnut of putting on a show - a telethon to save the old Muppet theatre property from falling into the hands of an evil oil baron (Chris Cooper) - and couched within a journey of self discovery.
That journey is Walter's. A life long fan of the Muppets (who seems oblivious to the fact that he appears to be one of them) who, along with his brother, Gary (Segel), and Gary's fiance, Mary (Amy Adams), heads to Los Angeles to visit the Muppets studio only to discover the studio in disrepair and the Muppets long since disbanded and gone their separate ways.
It becomes Walter's mission to bring the gang back together and before Tex Richman (Cooper) can lay the studio to waste; first by tracking down Kermit and then the rest of the gang, and then convincing someone to let the "has-beens" back on television.
But even harder to convince will be Miss Piggy (now voiced by Eric Jacobson). The porcine princess, now the Paris-based editrix of plus-size Vogue, is still a diva and still harbours mixed feelings towards the commitment-phobic Kermit.
Of course, the ending of The Muppets is never in doubt; even first-time youngsters will know it'll be happy ever afters all round before the curtains close on the Muppet theatre and the credits roll. But as they say, it's the journey not the destination that matters. And, oh, what a fun-filled journey it is.
And a great deal of that fun comes from the film's musical numbers; the stroke of genius was having Bret McKenzie compose the songs. McKenzie, one half of The Flight of the Conchords musical-comedy duo (director Bobin also directed episodes of that HBO program), brings an irreverent sense of humour to proceedings.
From the opening number, Life's A Happy Song (odds-on to win the Oscar for Original Song), to a rap ditty by Chris Cooper, and the somewhat risque girl power anthem, Me Party, McKenzie ensures you'll be giddily toe-tapping along even as he's winking and nodding at the more grown-up members of the audience.
But young or old, only the tiniest, blackest of hearts will fail - or refuse - to be charmed by The Muppets. 2011 may have been a wasteland for family-friendly films, but The Muppets ensures that 2012 is off to a great start.