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Celebration of Silliness

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The Muppets
Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams and those cute, crazy Muppets

COLORFUL ROMP OF CRAZY: The Muppets bring their strange hijinks to the screen once again, in a fun, colorful romp of crazy! Courtesy photo.

The greatest lesson learned this year from film came in the gift that was Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris. “Nostalgia can be a noose. We can spend so much time mired in the past that we end up missing the moment. There has been a lot of cinematic strip-mining over the past few years. Every TV show, every old movie, everything is brought back, dusted off and carted out to see if there’s any magic still left to be wrung. The latest romp involves our good old friends The Muppets.

Kermit and company have fallen on hard times. The once inseparable group of crazy characters has gone their separate ways. Kermit lives a quiet life in an empty mansion. Miss Piggy is working for “French Vogue.” Fozzy Bear is doing two shows a night in Reno, and Animal is enrolled in anger management, trying to control his more base impulses. The real world has done a number on our puppet friends They’re desperately in need of a revival; they need a reason to get back together. Fate and convenience soon provide just such an excuse.
Gary (Jason Segel) is an average guy living in Smalltown, USA, a happy-go-lucky, red-blooded American with a spring in his step and his beautiful girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), on his arm. Gary’s brother, Walter, is a different story. He’s just like Gary, with the same enthusiasm and lust for life. The only difference is Walter is a puppet who has spent the vast majority of his life idolizing Kermit and his merry band of Muppet friends.

Walter, Gary and Mary take a trip to Hollywood. While touring the broken-down ruins of the old Muppet Theater, Walter learns that corporate tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans on buying the property and tearing it down to start digging for oil. Unless the Muppets can raise $10 million, their legacy will be destroyed forever. Walter and Gary find Kermit and explain the severity of the situation; before we know it, they’re off on a road trip to put the band back together.

There’s been a great deal of effort and care put into this project. It’s obvious that everyone involved is a fan of the puppets. Star Jason Segel helped pen the script; his reverence for the characters shows in every scene. There’s still a great sense of lunacy to the Muppets. There seemed to be a long stretch where they were being turned into bland family fare. This latest film returns them to their zany roots, a world where anything can happen—where people and puppets spontaneously break into song, where every scene features a wonderfully bizarre celebrity cameo from the likes of Alan Arkin, Jack Black and Dave Grohl. We even see a barbershop quartet mangling Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

I mentioned nostalgia earlier. People should take note of the tone in a movie like this. Sometimes a movie can be so reverent that it doesn’t end up covering any new territory. The Muppets is a perfect combination of old and new. Most importantly, it’s funny; at times it’s downright hilarious. Most of the songs work surprisingly well. A large number of them were penned by Bret McKenzie from “Flight of the Conchords” and combine just the right amount of “catchy” and “crazy.”

Not everything works, though. Amy Adams comes across a little strong, and she never seems completely comfortable in this manic world. She has a song in the middle of the movie called “Party of Me,” which could be the most salient example of a scene gone horribly wrong. It’s just terrible—and god love her for trying to sell it! She sings and dances her heart out, but the whole proposition is faulty. Adams acts like a bitchy theater drama queen who tries way too hard to be likable. While I appreciate the effort, the filmmakers could have cut a lot of her scenes and lost nothing. (And, yes, I realize I’m doing scene analysis in a movie where a frog and a pig are sexually compatible.)

The Muppets works so well because of the care taken with the characters. It also works because of the amount of weirdness they cram into 90 minutes. The most inspired of these scenes is watching Academy Award-nominated actor Chris Cooper break into a hip-hop number, which alone is worth the price of admission. The movie is chock full of talented actors embracing oddball tendencies. I don’t know why Zach Galifianakis is dressed like a hobo and screaming, “Everybody forgets Hobo Joe!” Frankly, I don’t care either. It’s highly amusing nonsense.

“The Muppets” dishes out a heaping helping of bizarre and still manages to tug at the heartstrings. Even the icy cold lump of coal where my heart should be was slightly warmed by a rousing rendition of “Rainbow Connection.” This is one of those rare revivals that takes everything that made the original so entertaining, but adding something new and relevant to the mix. This is a celebration of silliness—and a welcome one at that.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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