Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"The Muppets"

It’s a truth now generally acknowledged that Michael Caine’s tear-jerking performance as Scrooge in “A Muppet Christmas Carol” is one of the highlights of his (let’s face it) patchy career; Jim Henson’s creations have been bringing the best out of their celebrity guests for four decades now (Buddy Rich’s duet with Animal is well worth seeking out on Youtube). As with the best of their work, new film “The Muppets” satisfies because of its refusal to cheapen the franchise either by insulting the intelligence of the child audience, or pandering to cynical grown-ups with knowing adult references. The plot sees brothers Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (who appears to have some Muppet heritage, although this is never mentioned) make a pilgrimage to the Muppet’s L.A. studio tour, accompanied by Gary’s fiancée Mary; they discover that the Muppets’ legacy is threatened by evil tycoon Tex Richman; their task is to persuade the retired Kermit to get the old gang together to put on a fund-raising show. Originality, then, is not the point, but the screenplay is pitched perfectly, as are the songs, by Flight Of The Conchords’ Bret McKenzie; director James Bobin is also a Conchords veteran, and does a beautiful job of playing with the visual disparity between human and Muppet, and staging the classical-Hollywood-style dance numbers. Amy Adams is a stand-out as the sweet, frustrated Mary; so is Chris Cooper as the bad guy (one can even forgive his rap); and the various celebrity cameos (e.g. Dave Grohl, Mickey Rooney) are appropriately brief. If there is a weak point, it’s the performance of Jason Segel, whose limited facial expressions convey the impression that he’s not taking matters entirely seriously; which tends to undermine his excellent work as co-screenwriter (with Nicholas Stoller). This aside, though, it’s great fun, with the theme of self-actualisation – a “family” film in the best sense of the word.

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