Review: The Muppets

The Muppets (2011)
Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Jack Black, Ken Jeong, Alan Arkin, Jim Parsons, Sarah Silverman, and the Muppets.  Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Directed by James Bobin.

muppets1In November 2011, as I waited in a cool, dark theater in my favorite seat for The Muppets, I sent text messages to several friends: “I can’t remember when I was this excited to see a movie.” It was true, and it remains true. After the death of Jim Henson and retirement of Frank Oz, I didn’t think I would ever see another feature-length film with Kermit and his friends, and I was an enormous fan of both the syndicated Muppets television program and its related movies. As a younger admirer, I owned the original The Muppet Movie soundtrack and the Muppet Show Cast Album, and I even had the Muppet Show board game, one of the few games my sister would play without my having to bribe her.

It was too much build-up for this new picture to live up to. Jason Segel, who seems to have made a labor of love of this film, had all the right ingredients and best intentions, yet somehow I left the theater kind of deflated. New Muppet voices took more getting used to than I expected, and I never got over the feeling that I’d just seen an excellent tribute band of a movie. I knew I would have to see it again before I could give it a fair evaluation.

muppets3When its sequel, Muppets Most Wanted hit the big screen in 2015, I wasn’t in a hurry to get there, waiting instead for the DVD a few months ago. I loved that one so hard that I knew it was time to revisit its predecessor.

muppets2And it’s still a disappointment! Because the Muppets are nobody’s supporting cast. The concept of Jason Segal and his Muppet-looking brother traveling west with Amy Adams is excellent and intriguing, and it works pretty well. With silly sight gags, witty dialogue, two crush-inspiring cameos by Feist, cute songs, and a “let’s put on a show to save the theater!” plot, the return of the Muppets has everything it needs, except one: not enough of the Muppets. It’s like the studios didn’t trust Kermit and Company to carry the film; it needed a huge star like Segel to hold it together, and it’s just not true. The result is a pretty good Segel-Adams movie, but only a fair Muppets movie with far too much Kermit-Miss-Piggy stuff for my taste.

But hey. A pretty good Jason-Segel-Amy-Adams movie? I’ll take that almost any day.


Newb Tube

It’s been a month or so since the new TV season began (with a few exceptions; I’m still waiting on Supergirl Monday and Mom sometime thereabouts), so here’s a quick rundown of what I’m watching.

The most pleasant surprise has been Fargo, whose first season about a year and a half ago seemed to come out of nowhere and blow everyone (who saw it) away.  I probably wouldn’t have paid it any mind except that certain writers I respect were raving about it the week before it premiered.  It was excellent.  Maybe the first television I felt the need to discuss with others since Ally McBeal.  The new season had me wary, but only because I just didn’t see how it could equal the first season.  And so far, it has come pretty close.  I don’t see an Allison Tollman for this season, which is kind of a disappointment, but Kirsten Dunst could be this year’s Billy Bob Thornton: a known entity playing something completely different.  She’s been enthralling so far, a real puzzle.  I also like Ted Danson a lot so far.  It’s only been two episodes (of twelve), so if you’re missing the boat, it’s not too late to get caught up.

I’m a lifelong Muppets fan, as most people are, I guess.  The original The Muppet Show is one of my favorite TV series of all time, a show that impresses me more now that I’m old enough to know what to be impressed by.  This new show, The Muppets, a kind of takeoff on The Office, has Miss Piggy hosting a late-night talk show, with the rest of the crew as the production/performing team.  Fozzy is the show’s announcer and audience warm-up; Statler and Waldorf are regular audience members; Scooter is, as he always has been, a gofer; Kermit is the producer.  I totally get the criticisms, and I’m on board with a few of them.  The fat jokes aimed at Piggy are a bit much, and perhaps an anachronism of sorts for television today.  Like The Larry Sanders Show, another clear inspiration, we mostly only see behind-the-scenes stuff, which is the biggest disappointment.  The Muppets are show people.  Performers.  One of the inspiring things about the original show was the joy these characters felt in just getting on stage and performing, something that’s sorely missing from this.  Where’s the Kermit who was discovered sitting on a log in a swamp, singing “Rainbow Connection?”  Still, the characters are there, and they’re lovely and wonderful and I honestly can’t get enough.  And as I told Anto a few weeks ago, this completely new setting makes it easier for me to deal with the characters having different voices.

Dr. Ken, the new sitcom with Ken Jeoong, is uneven, but I’m on board for the whole season (and ABC just last week ordered the full season; it is the first of the new shows to receive the order) because I’m reviewing episodes for  The show is trying really hard to do some important things besides making people laugh, something I admire, but it really needs to be good entertainment first and good Asian American entertainment second, you know?  The cast is strong, for the most part, especially Dr. Ken’s family, anchored by Suzy Nakamura as Ken’s psychiatrist wife, and the chemistry between the two doctors is the show’s strongest element so far.  I’m not as in love with the way the staff at Ken’s HMO is being fleshed out, which is a disappointment because Tisha Campbell-Martin is there, and I love her.  The only reason I kept watching Martin on Fox in the 90s when it stopped being funny was her.

Which of course brings me to season two of Fresh off the Boat, which I am also doing episode reviews for. I have to say that it’s still uneven, but the season is a lot stronger than I expected. It’s doing a few things really well, giving Eddie a new love interest, and continuing to develop Jessica’s relationships with the other characters.

I’m TiVoing Life in Pieces, but haven’t watched any of it yet. It looks promising. I’m also TiVoing Last Man on Earth, that Will Forte series, but I only get to it once in a while. It’s excellent, though, and I’m sure I’d be more enthusiastic about it if I’d seen the first season. Definitely my kind of show. Alienation, baby.

For now, I’m down with Quantico too. I checked it out because of its star, Priyanka Chopra (ABC seems to be leading the pack in Asians, if you count CBS’s Hawaii Five-0 as just one multi-Asians thing), and got sucked into the story. I’m not sure I’ll stick with it, because it’s not really my genre, and if they plan to yank me along for a whole season without giving me enough development, I probably won’t make it. But it’s good so far.

I’m going to have to continue this tomorrow. It’s 12:33 in the afternoon, and I’m due at the annual NaNoWriMo kickoff, which I will also discuss later.