The Muppets Blu-ray ReviewMarch 26, 2012
The Muppets are back.
Four words that tell the story. They're words that tell the story of the movie, and they tell the story of what has to be one of the great comebacks in recent cinematic history.
We can gripe all we want about reboots, remakes, and sequels. We can whine and moan until we're blue in the face about how studios can't come up with original ideas and how annoyed we are about yet another Transformers sequel until the end of time.
But if you can find me one person who can honestly say, "I don't want to see Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and all the rest done justice," then I can show you one person who simply does not (or should not) exist.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it in the least. This is one of those reviews (and I'm guilty of more than a few of them) where objectivity is going to have to take a back seat.
I love this movie in ways that are going to be more than a little bit difficult to put into words. So consider the fact that it took me way longer to write this review than it's going to take you to read it.
As a lifelong fan of Jim Henson's classic felt puppets, it can be argued that I was predisposed to like this movie. My dad raised me on three things: Baseball, Star Trek, and the Muppets. As I said, the line between subjectivity and objectivity is going to be blurry at best for this review.
Having said that, this is easily one of the most emotionally-satisfying and human stories I've ever seen committed to film.
The movie follows the story of Gary (Jason Segel, who also earns a co-writing credit) and his three-foot tall, felt brother Walter. Gary sets out to take his girlfriend Mary (the eternally-charming Amy Adams) on vacation to Los Angeles to celebrate their anniversary, and he takes Walter (a lifelong Muppets fan... sound familiar?) along to visit the fabled Muppet Studios.
While on a visit to the hallowed Muppet theater, Walter learns of a plot by the evil oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to destroy the theater in order to dig for oil.
At this point, the trio sets out to enlist Kermit to get the band back together to put on one final show and raise the money to save the theater and, eventually, the Muppets themselves.
What follows is the most tender, genuine story of finding one's place in the world that I've ever seen committed to celluloid. And nevermind the sappy, nostalgic element that drives the bulk of the movie's emotional appeal.
It's insanely well-written (by the aforementioned Segel and his collaborator, Nicholas Stoller) and as funny as any comedy you've ever seen or are likely to see any time soon. The humor comes mostly from the long-held stigma that the Muppets simply don't hold any appeal to modern audiences.
After one round-up montage (led by Kermit and his butler, 80s robot) the Muppets are back on the screen and right back in our hearts. By the end of the movie, what we realize is that they never really left.
They're a breath of fresh air in a stiflingly-cynical world.
And, of course, what would a Muppet movie be without some cameos? There's some hilarious supporting roles filled by the likes of Adam Arkin, Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Rashida Jones, and a host of other celebrities. I would say they add a "real people" element to the movie, but as the fish-hurling Muppet Lew reminds us, "A celebrity is NOT a people!"
Perhaps it's a little pretentious to suggest that there's something for everyone in this film, but... well... there's something for everyone in this film. It stands right up there with 2011's second best family film, Hugo (yes, I said it!) as having something to say for audiences of all ages.
For kids, there's the notion of Walter, an eternal outcast, searching for his place in the world and finally finding meaning among his new puppet friends.
Adults will take away the message that we have to make the most we can of the time we have.
SPOILER: There's a sequence near the end of the film that is perhaps the most human moment I've ever seen in a film. Near the end of the Muppets' telethon to save their theater, Kermit and Miss Piggy sing the classic 'The Rainbow Connection' as a duet.
At the start of the second verse, the rest of the gang stands off-stage ready to join in. Before they step on-stage, Fozzie, Gonzo, the Swedish Chef and all the rest look in one anothers' eyes and take one anothers' hands as if to say, "This could be our last chance - let's take it together."
If it doesn't at least cause your eyes to well up with one tear (at minimum), then it's entirely possible that you were constructed by SkyNet. You would have to be a robot not to have an emotional response to that moment.
The bottom line is that The Muppets is one of the most deeply-affecting movies to have been released in years.
It's amazing (and, to some degree sad) that these felt puppets can do a better job of an evoking an emotional response from an audience than most humans.
Disney has brought The Muppets to Blu-ray with a picture-perfect 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that is among the most gorgeous visual presentations I've yet seen in a Blu-ray Disc. Sure, it's plainly obvious in high-definition that these characters are puppets - but, be honest: When WASN'T that plainly obvious? The colors are incredibly vibrant, black levels are very well-defined, and I was able to detect absolutely no signs of artifacting or noise.
As for the sound, the lossless 7.1 DTS-Master Audio soundtrack brings every song (including the Academy-award winning 'Man or Muppet') to audible life. This is a movie where big slapstick numbers and quiet, somber moments come-and-go at breakneck speed, and the soundtrack is always a step ahead, never allowing us to suffer any kind of sensory whiplash.
Unfortunately, it doesn't make any of Fozzie's jokes any funnier.
Beyond the Feature
Also unfortunate is that despite the fact that Disney has brought the film to Blu-ray with a plethora of bonus features, none of them seem to be on-par with the film itself.
The audio commentary, which features Segel, Stroller, and director James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords), doesn't shed much light on the production. Even though the participants seem to be having a pretty good time watching the film, all their comments make you want to do is ditch the commentary and just listen to the movie.
The highlight in the extras section is the theatrical spoof trailers, in which Disney produced spoofs of several other 2011 films, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Green Lantern. Additionally, when you purchase the 'Wocka Wocka Value Pack,' you can also download the entire film's soundtrack.
The rest of the bonus features are as follows:
Also, the pack contains a DVD copy of the movie. All bonus features are presented in high-definition.
The Muppets may not have been the best movie of 2011, but it was absolutely my favorite. It's a flick that, for 90 minutes, will wash away every jaded opinion you have of film, art, and life in general. It'll keep you laughing.
This is more than just a great Muppet movie. This is a great movie.
Allow me to say it once more: The Muppets are back.
In a big, bad way, the Muppets are back.
- Jason Jarman
Shop for The Muppets on Blu-ray for a discounted price at Amazon.com (March 20, 2012 release date).
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