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I went to see “The Muppets” on Wednesday, and let me just say

 

=D

 

That’s the short of it.

Now, to make this review fair, I will list the few things in this movie that bothered me. I don’t know that they’ll bother you though, or if you’ll agree with my reasoning, but nothing can be perfect afterall.

My one big gripe is the product placement. Now, it’s actually not bad at all, except for the one billboard of Cars 2 that is so prominent I noticed it, and that bothered me a lot. It was unneccessary; maybe it was a joke, since Cars 2 isn’t in theaters anymore, but if so it went over my head until just now, and I still don’t think it was funny or clever.

The other thing that bothered me was how LA it was. It was very Hollywood. I mean that in how clean and pretty everything looked. When I think back to all the other Muppet movies, they have a distinctly… grittier?… feel. I can’t say grittier is the right word, but there’s a certain amount of shiny that I accept in Hollywood movies – how seamless everything is – that I don’t like in my Muppet movies. I can accept, of course, that the movie takes place, mostly, in LA, and that this shininess is easily a reflection of that sort of ideal, but that doesn’t make me like it.

Writing-wise, I was a bit put off at how self-aware the movie was. I do think making jokes like “Then this is going to be a really short movie” can be funny, but there’s a lot of that “winking” to the camera (I say winking, but it’s more like staring right into the camera and saying “We know we’re in a movie, and so that’s the joke.”). Part of what bugs me about this is that it’s done too much. It really should be more of a wink to the audience, nothing more.

I feel like the musical numbers, while a heck of a lot of fun, were just too big. Also, too many human stars. See, when I think of a Muppet movie, and their musical numbers, they blended into the world. Yes, people were singing, but maybe it was the type of song, or the lyrics, but it didn’t feel like the movie was drawing extra special attention to it. The opening number, while catchy, was a big lavish musical number that, let’s be honest, could have been in almost any type of corny musical. The number was corny, and purposefully so, and the Muppets never seemed corny to me.

And it’s not that I don’t like Jason Segel or Amy Adams, they did a fantastic job, but, like (one of) my (many) issues with the Transformers movies  – if I’m watching a Muppet movie, I want more Muppets and less humans.

And Scooter’s and Fozzie’s voices were off. As far as Scooter’s voice being off, I think it’s more OK since he’s more of a minor Muppet people tend to forget… and more importantly, he’s been voiced by 7 different performers, so him sounding off to me doesn’t mean much. As for Fozzie… Frank Oz is still alive. Though Eric Jacobson has been performing him for 9 years, it’s still not the same voice, it’s too high pitched…but his enunciation is dead on. This might just be a case  of I have to get used to it since there was nothing wrong in the performance or writing.

All of that is problematic for me, so why, when I left, did I say “A++ would see again”?

Everything else.

The writing is dead on for the most part – the characters are all written correctly, there’s just so much charm in it. It also doesn’t ignore its own history, aging the Muppets – admitting it’s been far too long since they got together, and filling in the blanks between then and now. Animal is getting anger management help. Fozzy’s been working in ..ahem.. “nightclubs” with a band called The Moopets, Gonzo ended up owning a toilet empire, and Kermit and Miss Piggy had to go their separate ways. It is this part that is more surprising to me – not that they would go on their own ways, we all saw it coming, but in how much care was put into the writing so that it seemed natural, and that both Miss Piggy and Kermit were equally upset by this outcome. And the reason they split was not a silly one, but one that we’ve all seen and maybe experienced. (Oh,Gonzo and Camilla are still together though).

The plot is something that is all too familiar (And I don’t know why) – a rich evil guy will own the Muppet Theater, which he plans to demolish so he can drill for oil. The Muppets must reunite one last time to put on one last show, and raise the $10,000,000.00 it will take to own the theater, and their names, again. But it’s fairly obvious that the plot exists solely as a way to get the Muppets back together to put on the show.

There is, of course, the Amy Adams/ Jason Segel subplot of going to LA for their 10th anniversary, which Gary (Segel_ forgets about. And will they or won’t they get married. It feels tacked on, honestly, like it was something for the humans to do.

By far the best thing about this movie’s writing is in Walter, the new Muppet. He’s not super exciting – he doesn’t sing, or do karate, or tell bad jokes, or anything… he’s just a normal person (well, Muppet) who is a huge fan of The Muppets. He could easily be an everyman character -one that we are supposed to relate to. When Walter faints when Kermit calls him his friend, we, as Muppet fans, understand why. Walter’s journey with the Muppets is, essentially, OUR journey with them. I thought I could go on longer about him, but I think I did a pretty good job summing up his function in the movie. He’s more than a device for us, of course, he has a distinct personality, and he’s just so lovable.

I said earlier that there’s a self-awareness that I find off-putting, and that’s true, but there is just enough self-referential humor that I ate it up. Sweetums getting left behind at a used car lot, for example, had me floored. I don’t think anyone in that theater actually laughed at that, but I loved it. There’s a moment when they’re looking at the “Standard Rich and Famous Contract” that was signed in the first movie. So many little touches like that that did not seem shoe-horned into the script, just for older fans’ enjoyment – they were seamless. I suppose, in a sense, like the dilemma faced in The Muppets, the Muppets temselves realize that they are not as relevant as they once were; I still think it’s safe to say that a majority of children grow up watching Sesame Street, I don’t think that they have ever had the chance to graduate to other Muppety goodness, like I did. It is sad, but some of us have to face the fact that there are people out there that have no idea who Kermit the Frog is. But what I like about this movie is that 1.) they address that and 2.) they go on anyway. The Muppets in the movie put on a show for their fans, the many fans they still have, who are devoted to them, who never forgot them, and who are thrilled to see them. This movie is pretty much the same – it is for the Muppet fan, and almost catered to us. While I have no doubt in my mind that someone who had never heard of The Muppet Show would enjoy this movie, the characters’ journeys don’t mean as much to them, and The Muppet Telethon, while being entertaining  doesn’t have any significance.

But let me tell you, if you’re like me, The Muppet Telethon was glorious. Scooter does his “15 minutes to curtain” routine that he does at the beginning of every episode of The Muppet  Show, and they do the theme song! It was something magical and wonderful to see again. I teared up because I was so happy to see that again – especially when they all sang Rainbow Connection.

Everything they set up in the beginning of the movie had its pay off, the Muppets were on form, and from the beginning to the end, I did nothing but enjoy myself. It wasn’t until I stopped to think about the movie that I was able to think about what I didn’t like – and those things still don’t make me not want to see it again. I totally would in a heartbeat.

 

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I was thinking about this recently. I didn’t like The Last Airbender, not as a movie, not as an adaptation… not even as a Riff Trax (though they tried… it’s not their fault though). I’m usually able to just turn my brain off and hop on the fun train, you know? That’s why I can defend stupid Rom Coms, and not get nitpicky when there are small plot holes in Doctor Who.

But there was one thing that, above all, bothered me sooooo much in The Last Airbender, and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

The Blue Spirit

The Blue Spirit, Prince Zuko in disguise, saves Aang, the Avatar, from the Fire Nation (his own nation – Zuko’s a fire bender, and you know… prince of the Fire Nation… he was sent to hunt down and kill the Avatar so saving him from that situation was not a small deal… though it makes sense… you have to watch the show).
Now, the Blue Spirit mask is very heavily modeled after Chinese Opera masks and makeup. I would show you a picture, but it’s 2:30am, and I’m lazy.
Given that, in the series, the Fire Nation is heavily modeled after Asian (in general and Chinese more specifically) culture, this makes complete sense.
In the movie, however, the Fire Nation is full of Middle Eastern people, which would suggest to me that, were this adapted world to be expanded, that the Fire Nation should be heavily modeled on Middle Eastern culture.
So: Why is the Blue Spirit mask in the movie essentially the same mask that’s in the show? Shouldn’t the Blue Spirit mask be more influenced by Indian masks, or Egyptian masks, etc…?

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