If you read my Top 10 Favorite Muppet Productions list, you know that I was not the least bit excited for this movie when it came out? Why? Because not only were the Muppets breaking up and being sold to different companies, but they also hadn’t been releasing good productions since the end of the ’90s. After The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, the Sesame Street Muppets sold to Sesame Workshop in 2000. Later we had the straight-to-video film Kermit Swamp Years (David Grumpel, 2002). Later that year, we got a TV movie, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (Kirk R. Thatcher, 2002). In 2004, the Jim Henson Company sold the rights to the Muppets (Kermit, Piggy, and friends – not Fraggle Rock) over to the Walt Disney Company. (I will always rue the Muppets being owned by Disney!) In 2005, the Muppets released another TV movie, The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (Kirk R. Thatcher, 2005). THIS IS THE WORST THING THE MUPPETS HAVE EVER DONE!!!!! Then there was Elmo’s Christmas Countdown Gary Halvorson, 2007), Studio DC: Almost Live (Kirk R. Thatcher, 2008), and A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (Kirk R. Thatcher, 2008). All of these productions were mediocre at best. They had nice moments, but as a whole they did not work at all. They were pretty bad. In 2009, the Muppets began producing YouTube videos to reintroduce the Muppets to the younger generation. Their most famous video is their rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was great, but I still wasn’t looking forward to this new film – I knew it would suck. It seemed as though I was the only one who felt that way, because everyone else was really hyped for this film! Everybody talked about it, all the critics praised it, and the Muppets were welcomed back to the forefront of mainstream. After I finally saw the movie over 7 months after its release, I must say…I fell in love with it as well. This film is AMAZING!!! I LOVE IT!!! This is one of my favorite films EVER!!! It is amazing how incredible and wonderful this movie is! Why do I love it so much? What makes this film so great? Let’s find out!
STORY AND THEMES & MESSAGES: The story is very engaging. One of the Muppets’ biggest fan, a young man named Walter, gets the opportunity to go to California with his brother, Gary, and Gary’s girlfriend Mary to see the Muppets Studio. However, he learns that an evil oil magnate, Tex Richman, is planning on tearing down the studio and drill for oil. Walter, Gary, and Mary find Kermit and tell him that the only way to save the studio is to raise $10,000,000. That means Kermit has to round up the gang, who has been broken up for a long time, and put on an old fashion telethon, Muppety style.
The story is good, but it’s very busy and full. There is so much going on in this story. (1) Walter wants to meet the Muppets. (2) Tex Richman has to make sure nothing comes in the way of his oil. (3) Mary wants to spend time with Gary, who is always looking over his brother. (4) Kermit has to round up all of the Muppets, that takes some time; especially when he has to convince Piggy to come back. (5) The Muppets have to convince a network to air their telethon, that’s a big deal. (5) The Muppets have to plan and rehearse their show, which is somewhat of a disaster. (6) Kermit can’t find a celebrity host. (7) The Muppets have to get the money they need to buy the studio back. It’s a lot! There’s is always something going on! It’s not necessarily bad seeing as how everything is so entertaining and they all have closure. However, it is a lot to take in. The earlier Muppet films were simple in their plots, and thus they had a lot of room to breathe. Here, the story is constantly moving.
That being said, however, the story isn’t bad at all. It gives us a lot of insight to our favorite characters. I like seeing what they’re doing when they’re not together. Gonzo owns a plumbing factory, that sounds about right. Piggy is the editor of plus-sized fashion in Paris, that’s perfect for her! Rowlf is relaxing and taking it easy in his home, duh! It all stays true to who these people are.
The entire movie stays true to who the Muppets are. I love that this film belongs to the Muppets. We see Gary and Mary in the beginning to sort of introduce the story, but we are ultimately looking at the Muppets. Unlike The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, the Muppets don’t share the spotlight here. We are looking at Kermit. We want to see Kermit achieve his goals and learn something. I like watching Gary and Mary too, but the focus is not on them.
I think a lot of people were surprised by the number of emotional scenes in this film. There are a lot of tear-jerking moments in this movie! We’ll get to “Pictures in My Head” later. The nostalgia lies heavy when the Muppets sing “Rainbow Connection.” I read a comment when a lady said all the women and half the men were crying in the theater during this song. The other half of the men broke down when Animal began playing the drums. I always get emotional at the end, when the Muppets walk outside the theater to all of their fans cheering them on. It’s just wonderful to see people love and care for these wonderful characters! They’re so great to me, and I’m glad to see other people declare them as great too. As great as this moment is, though, my favorite moment is when they recreate the opening of The Muppet Show! From the time Scooter knocked on Jack Black’s door to the end of the theme song, I thought I was going to cry. It was so reminiscent of The Muppet Show, and it makes me smile wide! I love it!
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few things I didn’t like concerning this story. They’re not big, but they are things I want to address. First of all, some of my favorite Muppets don’t get too much screen time in this picture. Gonzo’s on screen for about 20-25% of the film, and I wanted to see more of him! He’s got a lot more time in front of the camera than Rizzo, however! Rizzo didn’t have any lines in the film! He was in 2 frames of the entire film: he was in the crowd when Kermit gave his speech to the Muppets, and he appeared with one of the groups of Muppets during the finale. ANGER! Unfortunately for me, Pepé does show up in this film. Thankfully he only has 3 lines, but that’s 3 more lines I’d like him to have. But my more serious problem occurs at the end of the movie. After Kermit’s speech, the Muppets are greeted by their fans, and the finale number, the movie says “The End.” But then, what happens? Tex Richman gets hit in the head and gives the Muppets their name and theater back! I’m not necessarily angry that he gave that stuff back to them. They definitely needed their name back if they were going to do more Muppet productions; they refer to their productions all the time. If the “Muppet” name was taken away from them, what would they had been called? I’m just disappointed with how they got their name and theater back. It’s rushed in 10 seconds as the credits are rolling. It’s funny, yes, but it still feels rushed and somewhat lazy, like it was a last minute thing. I just think the filmmakers could have been more clever in making that ending work better.
Since there’s a lot going on in the movie, you can imagine there are a lot of themes and messages too. I love Kermit’s speech toward the end about endurance and being strong is a great message. I love how Gary and Kermit learn not to let the love of their lives slip away from them. I LOVE the scene where Veronica shows the Muppets the type of TV shows that were currently popular, to show how crappy entertainment was. (I hated television in 2011.) My favorite lesson from the movie, though, is the one Walter learns. Gary tells him, “You always believe in other people, but that’s easy. Sooner or later, you’ve got to start believing in yourself; because that’s what growing up is, becoming who you want to be.” This was handled and conveyed with such care and delicacy. I was going through a little situation of my own when I first saw this movie, and that was the thing I needed to hear. I love that line, I love that moral, and I love how it was taught! Well done, movie! Well done!
HUMAN CHARACTERS, NEW MUPPETS, & CAMEOS: I love this cast! These characters, these actors – they’re all so wonderful! This movie is also unique because it introduces a new Muppet to the franchise! Let’s get into it!
1) Gary – He’s a fun guy. There’s not a whole lot to say about Gary. Like most live-action human stars in Muppet movies, Gary is not the most engaging character. He’s alright, but he’s not that entertaining. I italicize “that” because Gary is funny. He’s not as entertaining as the Muppets, but that’s because it’s not his movie. However, he does have a lot of likeability to him! I love the humor that comes from him. I love his heartfelt moments with Mary and Walter. I like how relatable he is. He’s a good guy!
2) Mary – I feel almost the same way about Mary that I feel about Gary. I do find her more entertaining, though. She’s funnier to me. I think that’s because of how Amy Adams is playing her. Mary is kind of a wide-eyed bland woman, but Adams puts a lot of the energy into the comedic moments. I love watching her sing. I love all of the jokes that involves her. They are all too wonderful!
3) Tex Richman – This guy is amazing! I love Richman! There isn’t much development to him, and you wouldn’t really understand why he hates the Muppets so much unless you’ve heard the soundtrack. But that’s part of the joke. Richman is an over-the-top bad guy. What is so ironic about this, though, is that Chris Cooper plays him pretty reserved for the most part. It’s not until toward the end of the film that he becomes bigger in terms of physicality and volume. But I love how deadpan he can be! I just love him!
4) Veronica – I don’t like this lady at all! Veronica is a rude, mean, cruel douche! I don’t like how she talks to Kermit! I don’t like how she disrespects the Muppets! I don’t like the show she airs on her network! And I don’t like the way she talked about Benson! She refers to it as if there’s a problem with it. What the crud is wrong with Benson? Crud you, Veronica! Crud you!
5) Jack Black – Jack Black’s role in this movie is incredible! I really want to find an interview where he talks about his involvement and enjoyment in this film. I love his first appearance in the film, and I love the surprise of having him come back during the telethon! He’s the celebrity that always second guessed being with the Muppets on The Muppet Show! I love how “Tuesday” is one of his trigger words! Why is “Tuesday” a trigger word? That’s a whole day of the week you can’t say! It’s great! This guy is wonderful, and it was wonderful seeing him in the film!
It was wonderful seeing a new character to the Muppets. Walter is a great addition to the group! I was surprised when a lot of people were confused how Walter, a Muppet, could be the brother of Gary, a live-action human. I wasn’t so surprised. Not only have the Muppets done a joke like this before (Kermit and Fozzie being twins), but in the Muppet universe we’re supposed to accept these creatures as real. Kermit is a frog. Fozzie is a bear. Miss Piggy is a pig. And now, Walter is a human. He’s a human in the likeness of a Muppet, but he’s a human nonetheless. Why can’t we believe he and Gary are brothers?
Walter has an innocence to him that is very refreshing. He’s very sweet and optimistic. He’s very much like a child in an adult’s body. From having stickers on his headboard to his belief that everything will be OK in the end, Walter is the child we all know and love. It’d be easy to have a strong annoyance or dislike for a character like this, a sort of man-child. I don’t know if it was Jason Segel and Nicolas Stoller’s writing, if it was Peter Linz’s performance, James Bobin’s direction, or some sort of combination, but Walter is a very loveable and endearing character! It’ll be interesting to see how the studio continues to use him in the future, but I’m excited to see him appear again! It’ll be fun! Walter is a great guy!
There are a slew of cameos in this film! You really have to be careful not to blink, otherwise you’ll miss someone. I like that these cameos sort of serve the same purpose they did in the first Muppet film – it’s a “who’s who” game with the audience. Who’s going to appear next? As always, it’s just great to see current stars interact with the Muppets! I will say that I don’t get as excited over all of these celebrities because I don’t know all of them. I don’t know all the cameo stars from the earlier films, but I’m familiar with more of them than I am with the celebrities in this film; I just don’t keep up with modern pop culture. But of those who appear, we’ve got Bill Cobbs, Alan Arkin, Kristen Schaal, Eddie Pepiton, Sarah Silverman, Aria Noelle Curzon, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, James Carville, Rico Rodriguez, Selena Gomez, John Krasinski, Neil Patrick Harris, Leslie Feist, Emily Blunt, Dave Grohl, Judd Hirsch, Jim Parsons, Zach Galifianakis, Mickey Rooney, and Whoopi Goldberg! Goodnents gracious, this may be the most number of celebrities to ever have a cameo in a Muppet movie! But that’s not all – some of the celebrities’ cameo scenes were cut. Those celebrities are Wanda Sykes, Kathy Griffin, Sterling Knight, Billy Crystal, Sarah Hyland, Danny Trejo, Ricky Gervais, and Rob Corddry. In fact, the latter three would go on to star in Muppets Most Wanted (James Bobin, 2014). I must say, though, that I read that Elmo was supposed to have a cameo in this film. He didn’t because Sesame Workshop and Walt Disney representatives could not come on good terms. CRUDDED WHAT?!? I NEED to see a Sesame Street Muppet have a crossover/cameo in a Muppet movie! That would have been so perfect! And it would have been great to see Elmo featured seeing as how his fame has grown so much since The Muppets Take Manhattan and A Muppet Family Christmas! SHAME ON YOU, DISNEY AND SESAME WORKSHOP! SHAME ON YOU!!! All of that aside, my favorite cameo in the film is Jerry Nelson! In his last Muppet role, he is the announcer in the Muppet Theater! He’s the one who says, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host: Kermit the Frog,” and “The Muppet Telethon will be back after this break!” This is the last role he had before he passed away in 2012. This is the man who performed many of our favorite Muppets like Robin the Frog, Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Camilla the Chicken, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Pops, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Uncle Deadly, J.P. Grosse, Count von Count, the Two-Headed Monster, The Amazing Mumford, Sherlock Hemlock, Herry Monster, Gobo Fraggle, Pa Gorg, and many, many, MANY more. Rest in peace, Mr. Jerry Nelson!
One more thing I have to say is it was great to see classic Muppets from The Muppet Show appear in the background AND foreground in this film! I’m talking about characters like Nigel, Lips, Wayne and Wanda, and Uncle Deadly! I was as familiar with that show as I am now when I first saw this movie. Imagine my surprise when I go back and watch The Muppet Show and I see many of the characters that fill the screen in this film! It is all too wonderful!
SONGS/MUSIC: Oh boy, here we go! The music in this film is fantastic! The score is composed by Christophe Beck, who we’ve talked about before. His music is outstanding here, it adds to the tone greatly. He really feels the emotions our characters onscreen are feeling. Most of the songs are composed by New Zealand performer, Bret McKenzie. His songs are absolutely fantastic! These wonderful songs, written with such hilarity and heart, makes McKenzie’s songs as memorable and great as Paul Williams’ songs! Let’s talk about them.
1) Life’s a Happy Song: What’s funny about this song – the whole opening of the film – is that it should be something that people hate. Listen to the words! The characters are singing about how great and perfect they’re lives are. Doesn’t that annoy you? Doesn’t that make you angry? Doesn’t that tick you off? Depending on how someone tells you about their perfect life that has no problems, you’d be upset. But that’s thing: it’s the way they do it. Here, this life seems pleasant. It’s actually quite encouraging. This song doesn’t make me wish I was in Gary’s and Walter’s world; it makes me look at my world and say, “it’s a happy song!” It’s so welcoming and warm, you can’t help but smile when you hear this number! I love it!
2) Pictures in My Head: This song was written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis, and Chen Neeman. I said in my review of The Muppets Take Manhattan that I was surprised when I heard that the “Saying Goodbye” number made people cry since I never cried when I heard it. THIS song, on the other hand, is a totally different story. Here’s the difference for me: in “Saying Goodbye,” I knew the Muppets would get back together in the end. My present was fine because I knew what was in the future. That movie also came out during a time when the world still went crazy over the Muppets. Here, Kermit’s singing about something that happened – something that really happened – very recently! It really felt as though no one cared about the Muppets, these characters we all knew and loved and wanted to see more of. My present was now gray and depressing because the recent past was sad. I felt the weight of emotion in Kermit’s voice and lyrics. I wanted to be one of those pictures on the wall so I could reach out and give him a hug! My goodness, this song is so sad! And didn’t you gasp and smile when you saw the pictures come to life and sing to him? And didn’t the smile quickly go away when you saw the portrait of Miss Piggy? MOST DEPRESSING MUPPET SONG EVER!!!!!
3) Me Party: I frickin’ love this song! This is the anthem for any person whenever they find themselves alone. I can’t help but sing and dance anytime I hear it! I know it doesn’t really have much purpose in the film, but that’s OK. It’s short, sweet, and entertaining! Again, it’s like the songs in The Muppet Movie! Let the disco music play, and enjoy your you party!
4) Let’s Talk About Me: I’m not going to lie, I really hated this song when I first saw this film. “Really,” I thought. “A rap number? There’s a stupid rap song in a Muppet movie – a stupid rap song that has nothing to do with anything?!” After time passed, I realized how wrong I was. First of all, much like “Me Party,” this song is short, sweet, and entertaining. Secondly, the Muppets have always been great at satirizing, and this song satirizes modern raps. Third, CHRIS COOPER IS RAPPING!!! That’s all I need! This song is hilarious, it’s wonderful, and it’s enjoyable!
5) Man or Muppet: Oh boy, here we are! I don’t know a person who saw this film that doesn’t like this number! This song was so great, it won McKenzie an Oscar!…Which was always confusing to me. This won an Oscar, but “Rainbow Connection” didn’t?…Oh well. This song is funny, genius, and catchy. It takes a hilarious spin on the traditional message of accepting who you are. The scale and the size of the production on this song is what makes it funny. I love this song so much!
6) The Muppet Show Theme Song: This song was, of course, written by Jim Henson and Sam Pottle. There’s not much to say about it except I love how they recreated this theme almost perfectly! Of course there are some differences between this and the original theme of the show, but look how close they were! And it’s wonderful to hear the voices of the original Muppet performers in this track! Listen carefully, and you can hear Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, and Richard Hunt! It’s wonderful!
7) It Smells Like Teen Spirit: What’s great about this film is that the Muppets are putting on sketches like they would on the original show. Here, they take a famous song and put a barbershop quartet spin on it! It’s funny!
8) Forget You: Chickens sing a CeeLo Green song? Golden!
9) Rainbow Connection: Oh, this will make you cry! Get the tissues ready!
10) The Whistling Caruso: This song was written and performed by Andrew Bird. It’s a very beautiful song. I can imagine hearing this in a classical opera. It just sounds so sweet and charming. It’s very lovely!
11) Life’s a Happy Song Reprise: For as much as I love the first rendition of this song, I love this version even more! It’s much more satisfying to hear all of the Muppets singing this song at the end after their happy ending! It’s endearing, it’s fulfilling, and it brings the story full circle. It’s just wonderful!
12) Mahna Mahna: Not only is it a great Muppet classic, but it’s still Jim Henson’s and Frank Oz’s voices on this track! The soundtrack to this film is awesome!
PUPPETRY: The puppetry in this film is really impressive! These characters look so alive and humanistic! Aside from the rats skating and scrubbing the stage in a montage in the middle of the film, there aren’t any scenes or moments that feature the Muppets pushing the envelope of puppetry like they did in their earlier films. However, just look at the way these guys move! The Muppets are doing things here that I’ve never seen them do before. To actually see the Muppets push a door open, pull a case open, or grab something is remarkable! Again, you have to remember these characters have rods on their wrists in order to really understand the significance of the work here. My favorite pieces of puppetry actually involve Walter. He doesn’t just part his lips to whistle – he actually puckers his lips! I loved watching him climb on the furniture and walk during the opening number. What really blew me away was him pulling the trigger on his water gun at the beginning of the film! Watch it – he’s pulling the trigger, and his hands aren’t built to do that! How was that accomplished?!? I don’t know, but it looks fantastic! I believe all of these characters are real!
COMEDY: There is no way I can talk abut the comedy of this film in its entirety. It is way too good! The comedy is so strong and so amazing! We’ve got a lot of great fourth wall jokes which, you may remember, the Muppets were always great at doing! When ’80s Robot suggested picking up the Muppets using a montage, Fozzie proposed driving by map, Gary referenced to the song and dance numbers he performed, or Mary made the comment that this would be a short movie – all of those were great and fantastic moments! They were appropriate! They were funny! They were always wonderful! I love the jokes that the characters said to give themselves a distinction. One of the best moments in the film (which is saying a lot) takes place whenever Tex Richman delivers a “maniacal laugh!” That is hilarious! How did Segel and Stoller come up with that?! It is so perfect! There’s no real reason for it, but gosh darn it if it’s not one of the funniest jokes I’ve ever heard in a movie! I also love the jokes that reference the other Muppet productions! When I saw Sweetums leaving Mad Mad Mooney’s to chase the Muppets in a car down the road, that was outstanding! I could not believe they put that in the film, but it worked so well! The only joke I don’t really get is the ’80s Robot. What’s the joke? Why exactly is that funny? I can tell that something is supposed to be funny about that, but I don’t get it. The things he does and says are funny, but the concept of ’80s Robot is confusing…Oh well, whatever! The comedic moments in this film are way too funny! The filmmakers clearly worked hard to make ALL of these jokes funny! There’s thought, there’s effort, and there’s talent! The filmmakers all knew that in order to make the heartfelt moments very emotional and powerful, they had to balance it all out with the lighthearted comedy that only a Muppet movie can bring! What can I say, folks? The comedy in this movie is top notch! It will have you laughing from beginning to end!
CONCLUSION: I am so glad I was wrong about this movie! I do not believe I have ever been more wrong about a film than I was when this picture came out. Sure, I have a few problems with it, but they’re all very, very, very minor. This film brought audiences all over the world back to the characters we love! It reminded us why we love them so much! Their personalities and their spirits are so endearing. These characters made out of foam and fabric can so wonderfully and perfectly convey human emotions unlike anything else I’ve ever seen! This film totally embodies the spirit of the Muppets – the spirit of Jim Henson! This does feel like one of the earlier Muppet films! It’s great! It’s obvious that there was a lot of great care in making this film. Segel, Stoller, Bobin, McKenzie, and the rest of the crew worked as hard as they could to make a wonderful Muppet film, and they more than achieved their goals! This film is funny, memorable, impactful, emotional, and relatable! I love it, and I can’t wait to watch it again later! Thank you so very much, filmmakers, for this most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational movie! God bless you all!
P.S. Here are some of the amazing parody teasers that came out for the movie: