After 11 years, the new Muppet film has arrived! After some really great promotional parody trailers, I finally got to see the new film on Wednesday.
The short, non-spoiler version is that this is a film for anyone who has ever loved the Muppets. I'm not sure if it will bring in new fans, but there's definitely a lot there for those of us who have grown up with them and truly love them. Go watch this movie!
Now to get spoilery: I went to the first showing of the day, and as soon as I arrived at the theater I was wishing I had gone to the midnight showing the night before instead. And I do mean as soon as I arrived - I walked up to the ticket machine and had to dodge bouncing screaming children who were with the woman at the other machine beside me. Fortunately this particular rambunctious group ended up sitting on the opposite side of the theater from me, but the audience was easily 75% kids. It's because of this that I can easily say this is not a movie made for children. While it is certainly suitable for all ages subject matter, it tackles a lot of bittersweet topics that were flying over their heads. I know this because I could hear them all talking while I was trying to pay attention.
This movie is the story of Walter, the ultimate Muppet fan. From the moment he first saw The Muppet Show, he really connected with them and wanted to be a part of it. It's pretty natural for that to happen, seeing as how Walter is in fact a puppet. But it's also clear that Walter is sitting in for all of us who have grown up with these characters and miss seeing them on a regular basis.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the movie for me was this general idea that the Muppets were has-beens that no one cared about anymore. All the television studios deny them their chance to host a telethon because "they're not celebrities." They only end up getting a spot because a reality show is cancelled at the last minute. There's a joke where Rico Rodriguez asks Kermit "Are you one of the TMNT?" and Selena Gomez admits she doesn't know who he is, she's just there because her agent suggested it. I really don't think all the kids that were in that theater with me were only there because their parents dragged them. Muppets From Space didn't come out that long ago.
Beyond that premise, there's a lot of fun to be had here. All the Muppets feel right and there's a ton of great jokes. I'm also impressed by the number of obscure Muppets they managed to feature. Though its pretty clear they were mostly focusing on The Muppet Show days and not on some of the more recent Muppets. Clifford and Bean Bunny have disappeared, Rizzo doesn't have a single line in the film, and Pepe's time is very short. But Uncle Deadly gets to play a major role so I guess you just have to take the good and the bad. They are very much a huge cast of characters at this point, so it's natural some of them are going to get left out. Also, don't expect to see any Sesame Street cameos like we used to, as the two properties are now owned by separate companies.
The celebrity cameos are great. For some strange reason I was expecting a Lady Gaga cameo, I guess because of her Kermit dress I thought it was an eventuality, but they didn't go there. However we do get to see Neil Patrick Harris, Jack Black, John Krasinki, Sarah Silverman, and Zach Galifiankis among others. Perhaps the best cameo came during the song "Man or Muppet" where we see a human version of Walter. I had no idea that was coming and I was really excited to see who they chose (though apparently I was the only one in my theater to think so. Boo!) and I won't spoil it for you.
Speaking of which, I thought most of the songs were really good. They use both popular songs and original show tunes, and I think they have some future classics among them. "Life's a Happy Song," "Me Party," and "Man or Muppet" probably stand out the most to me. The only one I thought was really bad was the villain's rap number, and I think that was awful on purpose. At least I really hope so. I found myself unable to stop myself from singing along when The Muppet Show theme song started. And yes, when it came time for everyone to sing "Rainbow Connection" I had tears spilling down my cheeks. It really is a beautiful tribute to what the Muppets are all about within the movie.
I can't stress enough that you need to go out and see this movie now. The current climate being what it is, if this movie doesn't have a great opening weekend, Disney is going to think no one cares about the Muppets anymore and we won't get a sequel. And I need more Muppets in my life!