Okay – here we go!

I don’t know how you guys spent your Thanksgiving – but as part of my day my partner and I went to see the new Muppets movie (even though I was battling a work-induced cold!) Now I have to say going in, The Muppets was one of my most eagerly anticipated movies of the year. Like a lot of people my age (I’m 37) I grew up on The Muppets TV show in the late 70’s / early 80’s – and can’t help but smile when I see the likes of Miss Piggy, Animal and my favorite, The Swedish Chef. Plus there was the near unanimous praise for the new Muppets movie – 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Sounds like a sure bet, right?

Well sadly I’m with the 3% who didn’t give the new Muppets movie a rave review! For me it’s a big old disappointment…

Now let me be clear from the start – I didn’t HATE the revamped Muppets. I can’t deny that it’s quite clever in places, Jason Segel and Amy Adams are charming and some of the old magic still persists (basically any scene with Miss Piggy).

But there’s also a heck of a lot wrong with the new movie – and chief among them is the TONE of the film, which for me was all wrong. This is what happens when a bunch of hipsters make a Muppets movie. Everything is knowing, and winky and all a bit too smug and clever for its own good. ‘This is going to be an awfully short movie,’ states Adams, when confronted with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Ugh! Then there’s Chris Cooper’s bad guy oil tycoon who ends key scenes by saying ‘maniacal laugh’. At one point he even raps for no real reason. You get the idea!

But even worse is how disrespectful the new movie is to the Muppets characters (apparently the reason why original Muppets man Frank Oz isn’t involved in the new movie). I lost count of how many times the 2011 movie mocks the Muppets as yesterday’s stars and washed up nobodies. We even see Fozzie performing with a sad sack tribute band in Reno. But none of the above is funny – it’s all just very sad and depressing and kind of dark. The first half of the new Muppets is really a very bleak movie and for me, pissed all over the legacy of the famous felt characters.

 

Then there’s the songs – which bizarrely disappear for a good chunk of the movie – and unfortunately aren’t very good. Plus the fact that the movie has to re-use its opening number for the grand finale is a sign of true desperation.

And how about all the star cameos – which are going to make the film seem horribly dated in a few years time (mommy, who’s Selena Gomez?) Also if you’re going to feature celebrities like Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris at least give them something to do. Silverman plays a waitress in a Hollywood diner and has literally two lines. Harris has one. Neither are funny. Both are pointless. Star spotting for absolutely no reason.

In terms of the Muppets themselves the only character who really resonates is Miss Piggy – but even she’s under-written. There’s a potentially great scene where we find Piggy, now the plus-sized editor of Vogue, working in Paris, with The Devil Wears Prada star Emily Blunt as her assistant. There’s so much comic / diva potential here but the sequence is horribly underwritten and the one-liners fall flat. In fact most of the Muppets script is pretty weak – with characters like Gonzo and Fozzie given hardly anything to do. I barely heard any laughter in the showing I attended.

But what’s most missing from the new movie is MAGIC. I wanted to be transported by The Muppets, sent soaring by a refreshed entertainment franchise. But there’s precious little magic on hand here – just a whole lot of ‘aren’t we smart’ moments that sacrifice comedy for cleverness. And in perhaps the ultimate mark of the movie’s failure, the kids in attendance were totally bored. What a wasted opportunity…

But what do you think? Have you seen the Muppets movie? And what did you think of it? Fire away…