There have been several films featuring The Muppets, including The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and The Muppet Christmas Carol, but somehow I never got around to seeing any of them before this one. I’ve never even seen an episode of the original The Muppet Show from the 70s. In fact, my closest encounter with The Muppets was growing up with a show called Muppet Babies, which ran for eight seasons in the 80s and 90s. Of course I know who and what The Muppets are (who doesn’t?), this is all just to say that this review is coming from the fresh perspective of someone who is not that familiar with their earlier work.
This outing tells the story of Gary (Jason Segel) and his Muppet brother Walter (Voice of Peter Linz). Growing up together, they were always best buds, sticking together throughout the years. When Walter is introduced the to The Muppet Show, he quickly becomes obsessed with them, dressing as Kermit for Halloween, wearing a Kermit watch, and even dreaming about becoming a member of The Muppets’ gang.
Years later, Gary has a girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), who he is planning on taking to Los Angeles for their tenth anniversary. However, because he doesn’t want Walter to feel left out, he decides to bring him along, which excites him greatly because Los Angeles is where The Muppets Studio is located. Upon their arrival, they find the studio rundown and not attracting many visitors. Walter decides to sneak into Kermit’s old office where he overhears an oil baron, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), going over his plans to tear down the studio and drill for oil despite having told The Muppets that he would turn it into a museum.
Not wanting to see the original home of his heroes torn down, Walter enlists Gary and Mary to help him convince Kermit (Voice of Steve Whitmore) to help save the studio. After some initial reluctance, Kermit agrees to attempt to get the gang back together for another show to raise the $10 million needed to buy back their studio. However, they are faced with the major issue of having been out of the spotlight for so long, making them wonder if anyone still cares or even remembers them.
As my first outing with The Muppets on film, I found this to be quite a fun movie. It’s got a nice blend of humor with just a touch of drama, all the while keeping it rather silly and entertaining. It features several catchy songs spread throughout the film including “Life’s a Happy Song,” “Man or Muppet,” and, of course, the original theme from The Muppet Show. The story remains engaging throughout with its wonderful sense of humor giving it a good pace.
The film had some recent success at last month’s Academy Awards, taking home Best Original Song for “Man or Muppet” (though, to be fair, it was only up against one inferior nominee). “Man or Muppet” is a decent song, but I would have had to go with the upbeat “Life’s a Happy Song” as a better selection. I’ve seriously had that song stuck in my head for the past several days, which usually means that it’s pretty good, at least most of the time.
One of the traditions of The Muppet Show and the subsequent films was the addition of several cameo appearances and guest hosts including Bob Hope, Julie Andrews, Peter Sellers, and Steve Martin. One of the fun things about this latest film was to try to pick out all of these various cameos. Notable actors making appearances ranging from a few seconds to whole scenes include Neil Patrick Harris, Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt, Zach Galifiankis, Whoopi Goldbergh, Judd Hirsch, and Mickey Rooney.
If I had to put my finger on the weakness on the film, I would have to say it was Chris Cooper‘s material. He gives a fine performance as the villain, but his running joke of saying “maniacal laugh” instead of actually laughing was rather annoying. He also gets the worst song in the film, a rap number which would have been better left on the cutting room floor.
Looking at the technical aspects of the Blu-Ray, the film is presented in a beautiful 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer. This is one of the clearest Blu-Ray pictures I’ve seen in a long time. It’s so sharp that you can make out every little detail on The Muppets. This sharp picture also allows all of the bright colors of the film to shine through marvelously. The dts-HD 7.1 Master Audio is also very clear, allowing for the soundtrack and dialogue to come through perfectly.
Turning to the special features, here’s what’s included in the three-disc package:
- Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets
- Deleted Scenes
- A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read-Through
- Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song
- Unreleased Theatrical Spoof Trailers
- Audio Commentary with Jason Segel (Actor, Co-writer, Executive Producer), James Bobin (Director), and Nicholas Stoller (Co-writer)
- The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History**) **We Think
- A DVD Copy of the Film
- A Digital Copy of the Film
- Downloadable Full-Length Original Soundtrack
Unfortunately, there just isn’t very much to these special features. The “Scratching the Surface” featurette is ironically named because it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface regarding the making of the film. Instead, it features a lot of joke interviews with The Muppets and a few with actual people who merely say how excited they are to work with them.
The Deleted Scenes include about 10 minutes of film left on the cutting room floor, none of which really adds anything to the film, but, as always, it’s interesting to see what they decided to cut out. The “Screen Test” is simply the gang getting together for a read-through of the script, which is nothing special. As already mentioned, the Tex Richman song is the worst in the film, so the featurette with the full version should be avoided.
The Theatrical Spoof Trailers were interesting to look at, the best one of which was a preview spoofing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailer. A 15-minute sampling of the commentary showed that Segel, Bobin, and Stoller just didn’t really have anything interesting to say about the film, mainly taking the time to joke with each other about it. The blooper reel was somewhat interesting to look at, but it wasn’t all that funny. The best part of these special features is that the set includes a code that allows you to download the entire soundtrack, and since the soundtrack was one of the highlights of the film, that’s a pretty good deal.
Although the special features aren’t up to snuff, the film itself remains a fun, entertaining experience. I hadn’t seen any of The Muppets’ previous work, but I enjoyed it quite a bit, which makes me want to take a look at their earlier films. Whether you’re a fan of them or not, you’ll more than likely enjoy it. As for the Blu-Ray as a whole, I’m on the edge of recommending it for the film alone, but given the lacking special features, the best thing to do would probably be to check out the film first before deciding on whether or not you want to buy the Blu-Ray.
While the special features are rather lacking, the film itself is sure to please both old fans of The Muppets and those just discovering them.