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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Muppets | Jason Segal, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jack Black | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Muppets | Jason Segal, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jack Black | Review

This is an unexpected nostalgia trip for those of you who remember The Muppets in their heyday (1976-1981, 120 episodes).  The whole gang’s back in full, shaggy color, theme song and all.  Even The Rainbow Connection (complete with banjo) receives a performance nod.

All about remembering the good old days, 2011’s The Muppets is the story of their biggest fan Walter, a Muppet himself, always in the shadow of much taller (and human) brother Gary (Jason Segal).  Gary’s got a girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) who is bothered by Walter accompanying the couple to L.A. to celebrate their anniversary.  Walter wants to visit the Muppet Studios and meet the creations that make him feel like he’s one of them.

The genetic ramifications of biological brothers growing up as human and Muppet are never explored, so just sit back and reminisce.

Gary, Mary, and Walter find the Muppet Studios vacant and in disrepair.  The once-grand theater is a mess.  They set off to find Kermit’s home, meet the green icon and embark on a road trip to reunite, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal, and the illusive Miss Piggy, together with scores of ancillary Muppet characters to put on a fabulous reunion show/telethon.  The unifying factor is (surprise) a bad guy.

Enter Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) who knows there’s oil underneath the studios and wants to tear down everything so he can drill.  Richman has Muppet henchmen of his own, but they’re not nearly as cuddly as our familiar gang, out to raise money to preserve their theater and thwart the evil dude.

Now, put the back of your hand to your forehead and wonder, “Will Kermit and the Muppets save Muppet Theater?  Will evil Tex Richman take over Muppet Studios and destroy the property?  And what about Miss Piggy?”

Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor for Vogue Paris and the hardest to persuade to join in the group’s save-the-theater telethon.  Gonzo gave up his plumbing empire for it; Fozzie left his tribute band, The Moopets; Monster abandoned his celebrity anger management class (which includes Jack Black).  Seems Miss Piggy doesn’t want to leave the land of frog legs for one particular set – Kermit’s.  Love affair gone bad and all that.

Gary, Mary, and Walter join forces with the Muppets to help in any way they can, when Mary begins to resent Gary’s involvement.  It IS their anniversary after all.  Another relationship in trouble.  And don’t forget the Tex Richman threat.

To top it all off, a television executive (Rashida Jones) insists that the telethon must include a big star.  Jack Black is recruited (by rope) to join the effort.

Sprinkled throughout the drama are musical numbers that include both human and Muppet characters that sing and dance.  The self-awareness is refreshing; characters know what they’re doing and how they look doing it.

During the road trip for example, one Muppet suggests, for time and budget considerations, that the rest of the group be collected by montage instead of individually.  Mary and Gary complete dance sequences in an awkward manner, as if acknowledging that real life doesn’t work that way.  The film laughs along with the viewer in an interactive conspiracy of fun and nostalgia.

Jason Segal (also a co-writer) steers clear of sap, pulling off a sincere Gary.  Amy Adams is a perfect wide-eyed human accessory to complement the fabric foibles of her co-stars.  Chris Cooper “got game” as the comically ruthless tycoon who must say “maniacal laugh” out loud instead of actually producing one.  Jack Black is restrained as Jack Black.  Literally.  He’s tied to a chair.  He plays himself and is really accomplished at it.

Director James Bobin's first feature - he's done TV series like Da Ali G Show - upholds the legacy with classic tongue-in-cheek Muppets that handle absurdities and epiphanies with bumbling charm.  The enduring appeal is reclaimed, not repackaged.  The one rap number belongs to Chris Cooper.  Surprised?  It’s like that all the way through.

It’s every Muppet thing you remember, and if you happen to be a fan in the first place, that’s a very good thing indeed.

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