The Muppets Movie Was Super Cute

Aside from the fact that Jason Segel and Amy Adams‘ faces both make me want to take a 30-year nap, The Muppets movie was totally adorable and entertaining and I loved every minute of it.

Before I go on, I should admit that for me, speaking ill of the muppets is like using the Lord’s name in vain. But I guess that’s the thing about the Muppets — I never really have to speak ill of them ’cause they rarely fuck up. In 1976, Jim Henson developed an unforgettable motley crew of dynamic silly-looking characters who were just as funny/relevant then as they are today.

Furthermore, this franchise, along with Jim Henson’s other work and Sesame Street in particular, was so consistently groundbreaking in the ’70s/’80s that it doesn’t require a new-fashioned overhaul to be made relevant to contemporary culture. As a lifelong Muppets fan, I feared the film would be rendered unrecognizable by modern cinema’s inability to produce any kind of revival or children’s film without involving photo-realistic CGI humans, 3-D vision, edgy/sexy costuming and flashy-but-flat new characters. The Muppets, co-written by Jason Segel and Nick Stoller with help from the Muppeteers, did none of those things (at least not noticeably). If this movie had a subtitle, it would be “Now More Than Ever.”

Jason Segel plays Gary, the older brother to Walter, a muppet raised in a world of humans whose entire life changed when Gary and Walter discovered The Muppet Show back in the 70’s. That’s when Walter learned that he wasn’t alone in the world. There were other people out there just like him! If you’re gay, you probably can relate to that part.

Via a series of ensuing plot twists and story arcs, Walter learns that a greedy asshole executive (played by Chris Cooper) is moving to buy the long-abandoned Muppet Studios to exploit the land for oil.

Along with Gary and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), Walter tracks down his hero Kermit the Frog and encourages him to re-assemble the muppets to put on a show and save the theater. They only need to make $10 million dollars in a week! YAYAYAYAYYYY!

Kermit and The Gang have rotten luck pitching their show to television executives, however, due to the repeated movie-fact that “The Muppets aren’t famous anymore.” That’s the film’s hook, and it’s kinda funny. Not ha-ha funny, but weird-funny or not-really-true-funny, because what this film and the hype around it makes abundantly clear is precisely how timeless and effortlessly adaptable the muppets are.

As a hugely successful series of YouTube musical numbers demonstrate, I realized while watching the film that the muppets are the rare entertainment franchise that works just as well — if not better — in new media as it does in old. Fast-paced, cleverly-lyric’ed, hilariously-choreographed musical numbers starring cute animals and random celebrities? Um, yeah, that’s more or less exactly what delights The Internet. The Muppets did the Internet before the Internet did the Internet.

Most grown-ups will note that the film is almost entirely meta, and they will appreciate the 70s/80s/90s nostalgia, inside jokes and fourth-wall-playfulness scattered throughout the story. I might just be saying this to make myself feel better, but most grown-ups might also find themselves misty-eyed to see their childhood companions reunite or oddly devastated by the idea that in the fantasy world of this movie, Muppets are anything besides ridiculously famous and loved by all.

together again

Growing up I wasn’t allowed to watch any movies or television that involved violence, sexism, commercialism or otherwise unprogressive behaviors and ideologies. This eliminated almost everything about real human beings (besides the eager young mathematicians and scientists of Square One and 3-2-1 Contact). So I watched a lot of Sesame Street, Shalom Sesame, Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies. The first prime-time sitcom we ever watched as a family was Dinosaurs, a show featuring anthropomorphic characters co-created by the Jim Henson Company. Although the late-90s revival show Muppets Tonight never really caught on like the original program, I loved the hell out of it. On a special trip to Disneyworld, my brother demanded that we spend his birthday watching Muppetvision 3-D over and over (it was glorious!). I think my parents just really trusted Jim Henson.

And the fims! OH THE FILMS! The Muppets Take Manhattan essentially established a blueprint for the rest of my life, and every time I watch it there’s something about it that rings true all over again but in a different way. Now I see the socioeconomic conflict between the corporate suits of Ocean Breeze and the artists of Manhattan Melodies. Now, watching the muppets forlornly write Kermit with wildly exaggerated stories about their new lonely miserable lives, I see the self-conscious posturing we all do after college to make our lives seem better than they are.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find myself relating to The Muppets more than I have to any new film in recent memory. Plucking a diverse group of talented characters together to create something creative and beautiful and ideally profitable — but only so the work can continue, not because we dream of riches? Check! The pressure Kermit feels to meet the expectations of not only his audience, but his friends and fellow creators? Mhm. Relying against all odds on the thin hope that “if you build it, and it’s really good, they will eventually come”? Indeed. Hello, this website!

kermit gives a pep talk

Which is just to say that there’s plenty to love here for THE WHOLE FAMILY, as there always is whenever Muppets are involved. Fun cameos abound, including John Krasinski, Sarah Silverman, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrck Harris, Jack Black and a triumphant performance by Zach Galifianakis.  It’s no Muppets Take Manhattan, but what is, yannow? Above all, it’s really fucking funny and everyone onscreen seems to be having so much fun that it’s hard not to feel the same.

The Muppets isn’t perfect: the new songs, while cute when accompanied onscreen with boisterous choreography, don’t pack the same punch as the old songs. Kermit the Frog is, at times, even for Kermit, a TOTAL DEB. Nobody needs to see Jason Segel in high-definition but I suppose he deserves the role having written the script himself. If I ruled the world, Gary would’ve been played by Neil Patrick Harris, and Mary by Lea Michelle or Amanda Seyfried or something. Actually, seven or so years ago it would’ve been the perfect role for Lindsay Lohan.

Ultimately this movie is a feel-good film that reflects a growing trend in American media (see also: Glee) to prioritize family, friendship, love, self-empowerment and dream-following over money, status and power. I think Jim Henson would approve.

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Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1762 articles for us.

27 Comments

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    “That’s when Walter learned that he wasn’t alone in the world. There were other people out there just like him! If you’re gay, you probably can relate to that part.”

    I just saw the movie 6 hours ago. When I saw that part, my little gay brain said, “Is this movie going to be a metaphor for the coming out experience?”

    Well… yeah not really. But it was adorable all the same!

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    I was bummed it wasn’t available in 3D in any of the area theaters, but still enjoyable. Took a little time to get going, but, as always, adorable, funny and feel-good. I also thought of the whole gay comparison throughout Walter’s realization there were people like him out in the world. (He discovered this by putting on a huge campy theatrical performance on stage with them so… gay comparison is inevitable, amirite?!)

    The one thing I will say, however, is that this ain’t no Muppets Take Manhattan. Maybe it’s because I used to watch that movie when I was like 4 and now I’m an actual adult, but it just wasn’t as good as Muppets Take Manhattan to me and my follow movie-goers.

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    Loved Selena Gomez saying “I don’t actually know who you are, my agent just told me to show up.”

    I enjoyed it, but it really wasn’t even close to anything Jim Henson did. Needed more Muppets, less Segel. And waaaay more Sweetums and Janice. Also, Kermit the Frog would not have an electric fence.

    Still one of the best movies I’ve seen this year though. So glad they included Rainbow Connection.

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    HERE!HERE! I saw it yesterday at Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, California!!! Shout out to indie theater!!

    It was so good. The theater was full and everyone was laughing and happy including me. I completely agree with The Muppets being relevant and endearing today!! Their stuff is always about putting on a good/funny show and making people happy rather than just making a buck for the sake of making a buck.

    I loved that the screenwriters understood what Muppets were about and captured the spirit of the Muppets so well in this film.

    I know when I was really depressed a couple years ago I’d listen to The Smiths, Sade and Kermit the Frog’s “It isn’t easy being green.” I know; a tad dorky, but Kermit made me feel better and helped me see that maybe being different/green could be you know…a blessing.

    Jim Henson was a genius. He used puppetry to bring world peace and it worked. The world is a lot better of a place because of The Muppets.

    p.s. Oscar award winning director of Pixar’s Up (the one about the old guy flying with his house using a million balloons) Peter Docter sat right behind me with his family at the movie. That was kind of a thrill!!! Yay, Muppets!!!!

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    This is on my short list of movies to watch. Definitely going to go after this reading this review. For more on Jim Henson and friendship and love and feeling happy, go see Being Elmo. Great documentary about the Sesame Street side of the Muppets!

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    I want to see this so badly. I’ve been watching the original Muppet Show with my 2-year-old and she loves it. If I thought she was at all capable of sitting still/quiet for 2 hours I’d take her to this but as it is I think we’ll have to wait for the DVD.

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    My girlfriend and I went to see this on Friday night and We LOVED IT!! She squealed, literally squealed, at least 4 times over cameos of her favorite stars (Selena Gomez, NPH, “Sheldon”, Zach Galifinakis)I enjoyed James Carville’s appearance. I was smiling th eentire movie, it was just the ultimate feel good movie

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    Unpopular opinion: Even though I love Jason Segel and Amy Adams, I still am one of those people who couldn’t seem to get what The Muppets is all about. The blue creatures just give me the creeps. They make me feel awkward.

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    Normally I do not learn article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, very great article.

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