Don’t watch television shows you loved as a kid. As a general rule, they will almost always disappoint. A television station in the UK recently celebrated thirty years of its children’s television and replayed some of the classic shows I watched as a kid. Almost every show I watched, I was bored by. I remember these shows being classics but I was sat, stunned, wondering what the appeal was when I was a kid.
This is also an issue when classic tv shows are brought up-to-date and put on the big screen. Sometimes it works really well but most of the time it doesn’t capture what made it a classic in the first place. A-Team was something of a success where Transformers just didn’t seem to feel like it lived up to the original. The Muppets is slightly different though.
It’s different because the film works best when it is closest to the original show. The build-up to them putting on a Muppet Show telethon was nowhere near as good as when they actually began to perform the comedy and musical numbers that I remember as a kid.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like the build-up to the show and the “story” element of the film but it was at its best for the first half an hour. Collecting the different Muppets, getting excited and playing on the nostalgia element is the best part of the first half of the film. It’s also when the movie is at its cleverest, with Animal in rage therapy, Miss Piggy as a fashion icon and, hilariously, Gonzo running a plumbing firm. It a great way of reintroducing each character to a new audience and playing on what we knew about them classically.
Talking of new characters, the non-Muppet characters were a mixed bag. Jason Segal is clearly a Muppets fan and does a great job of showing that, being a decent enough human character alongside the puppets. Amy Adams feels like she is in the film as a love interest, surplus female character and her story with Segal’s character feels more like padding than a decent enough story in its own right. The real human star is Chris Cooper, who plays the villain perfectly and seems like he is really up for the fun that The Muppets requires. He does some great things that you wouldn’t have expected Cooper to do, making the performance even better.
He also gets a great musical number. In fact, the music is pretty decent in its own right. The opening song is probably the best but the others are catchy enough and give a good representation of the classic Muppet music we have come to expect. It’s even better in the actual Muppet Show they manage to deliver at the end.
Although it doesn’t feel like classic Muppet Show at any time, it is still the best part. The sketches are fantastic, the back stage aspect is brilliant and its as close to what I used to watch on television as a kid as I will get. This is also when the film is at its funniest. The rest of the jokes just felt slightly too childish and not quite as clever as I remember the original show being. When The Muppets is back to its roots, its at its best overall.
Overall, The Muppets is a great, nostalgic movie that goes a good way to recapturing some of the original magic of the tv show I loved as a kid. The film is at its best when it is closest to this original style and format, with the “journey” element of the show lacking the same magic as the last act of the movie does. Regardless of its faults, it’s still great to see the original Muppets back on-screen and I will still want to see the upcoming sequel.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)