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The Muppets (2011)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/20/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/18/2012
We've talked a lot -- way, way too much -- about reboots and remakes. In most cases, I'm against or uninterested in these movies, as they are either unnecessary or misguided. However, every once in a while, one of these projects comes along which gets me excited. I've been a fan of The Muppets since The Muppet Show premiered in the late 70s. I can still remember going to see The Muppet Movie and how my mother laughed at Kermit the Frog riding a bicycle. I was even one of the few people who went to see Muppets from Space in the theater. I've instilled an appreciation for the characters in my children. So, when a new Muppet movie was announced, I was ecstatic. Could this new project recapture that classic Muppet spirit?
The Muppets introduces us to Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) and his brother, Gary (Jason Segel). They have a fairly normal childhood, save for the fact that Walter is a little puppet. Walter finds solace in The Muppets and becomes their biggest fan. When Gary and his finacee Mary (Amy Adams) plan a trip to Los Angeles, they decide to take Walter along so that he can finally see Muppets Studio. Upon arrival, they find that the Studio is run-down. Walter overhears evil tycoon Tex Richman's (Chris Cooper) plan to tear down the studio in order to drill for oil -- unless The Muppets can raise $10 million. Walter, Gary, and Mary are able to track down Kermit the Frog (voiced by Steve Whitmire) and tell him what's going on. But, The Muppets have long-since disbanded, and he's hesitant to get involved. Walter's devotion changes Kermit's mind and soon they are rounding up the other Muppets like Fozzie Bear (voiced by Eric Jacobson) and Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz) and even Miss Piggy (voiced by Jacobson). Once back in Los Angeles, the group decides to put on a telethon in order to raise the money. Will they be able to win back an audience when abandoned them years ago?
In the beginning, the fascination with The Muppets was with the fact that they were elaborate and unique looking puppets. But, on further inspection, the show and the movies revealed a very clever and subversive sense of humor. The jokes were either very corny or very bizarre, but either way, they were funny. Through cultural references and celebrity cameos, The Muppets remained relevant and, for family entertainment, cutting edge. But, the 2000s saw a decline in their popularity, as things like computer animation took over. Of all people, Jason Segel, who showed an affinity for puppets inForgetting Sarah Marshall, spear-headed a new Muppet movie, and thus, we have The Muppets.
Could any project live up to The Muppets legacy? The truthful answer is probably not. But, The Muppets makes some odd choice which result in a decidedly mediocre movie. First of all, the story is surprisingly dull. It would have been a mistake to jump into the movie as if The Muppets were still a hot property. But, seriously, the old "Let's put on a show to save the theater" plot? That little chestnut has been around since the 1920s and it has run its course. The movie also makes a mistake by putting so much emphasis on Walter. He's not an appealing character, and even for a Muppet movie, the idea of a Muppet growing up in a human family seems a bit weird. Following in the footsteps of previous Muppet films, The Muppets insists on being a musical, but most of the songs fall flat. I can't believe I'm saying this, but they miss Paul Williams. Following another tradition, there are celebrity cameos in The Muppets, but they are hit or miss and you'll be asking yourself, "Am I supposed to be impressed that _____ is in the movie?" (As noted below, some great cameos were cut from the movie.)
But, the fact that the movie pales in comparison to The Muppet Movie doesn't mean that it's a complete disaster. Segel and Co-writer Nicholas Stoller have tried to re-capture some of the classic Muppet humor and there are some funny moments here. Fozzie retains his corny jokes and Kermit's facial expressions are still funny. However, there are some attempts to be too "hip" here and these jokes fail. The worst example of this is the Chris Cooper rap. Is there anyone who didn't cringe during this scene? (And there's a longer version on the deleted scenes included on this Disc.) Of all of the jokes, I found 80s Robot to be the funniest.
I actually left the couch and saw The Muppets in the theater and left feeling somewhat bewildered. It was great seeing all of my favorite characters again, but I couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing from the movie. Knowing this, I have to say that I enjoyed it more the second time, but it still feels like Muppets-lite -- it's a similar product, but it's 50% less satisfying.
The Muppets features a cameo by Zaj Galifanathens on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image looks amazing! This may be one of the sharpest and clearest transfers which I've ever seen, as there isn't a trace of overt grain and there are no defects from the source material. The colors look incredible and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very impressive, as we can see the texture of each Muppet and the depth looks very good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good and the track keeps us alerted to sounds coming from off-screen. These effects are nicely detailed and show good separation. The same goes for the surround effects and the movie never misses a chance to highlight something happening behind us. The subwoofer effects are nicely done, as the movie contains a few explosions.
The Muppets Blu-ray Dsic contains a handful of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Jason Segel, Director James Bobin, and Writer James Stoller. "Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets" (16 minutes) takes us on-set where we get comments from The Muppets and from their human co-stars. While this purports to show how movies are made, through a Muppet named J.G., it's really just an excuse for The Muppets to make more funny comments. Thanks to some odd narration and graphics, this feels like a Monty Python skit. "The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (in Muppet History)" (9 minutes) has some funny moments, but it's actually not as funny as the gag reels fond Kermit's Swamp Years and A Very Muppet Christmas. "A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read-Through" (3 minutes) shows Jason Segel and The Muppets preparing to rehearse for the film while also getting an idea of what they'll look like on-camera. "Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Story" (3 minutes) is the full-length cut of Chris Cooper's musical number. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. It's a shame some of these were cut, as they contain some good cameos which didn't make it into the movie. We get seven "Theatrical Spoof Trailers" which run about 9 minutes. The one which rips on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailer is the best.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long