Friday, December 2, 2011

Opening Scenes: ‘The Muppets’

By Chip Schrader

Staff Movie Critic

“The Muppets” opens with the clicking sound of an old super 8 projector and a clip from a home movie with brothers Walter and Gary playing with squirt guns. Walter, the narrator, is a puppet and his brother is human. As Walter insists, they were like twins, and you couldn’t tell them apart. The opening sequence cuts to where Walter discovers the Muppets as he finds himself not growing like his brother. For the first time, his life makes sense after he became a lifelong Muppet fan.

Writer and star Jason Segal plays the gentle and sweet Gary who always looks out for his brother who either never noticed or never let on his brother is a puppet. Segal’s quirky portrayal of Gary brings movie fans back to James Stewart’s portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd in “Harvey.” His genuine love for the Muppet legacy shines through to his performance and his song and dance scenes are riotous and spirited, not unlike Dick Van Dyke.

The very busy Amy Adams plays Mary, the saccharine sweet love interest of Gary. Perhaps raised reading too many fairytales, she is a perfect match for Gary, although she finds herself cast aside with the tight bind between brothers Gary and Walter. Adams’ wide-eyed portrayal and heavenly singing makes her the perfect fit, as she will no doubt charm audiences.

Just before a very funny opening musical number, Gary invites his brother to join him and Mary for their anniversary trip to Hollywood to see the Muppet Theater. When they get there, they are unpleasantly surprised and must reunite the Muppets in order to save the theater from an evil oil tycoon who found a reservoir under the property.

The best part is the writing. Segal doesn’t forget the original Muppet Show fans for a single scene. From 80s references where Kermit’s Robot offers a Tab soda and “New Coke” to references of classic Muppet-isms like “Mahna Mahna,” they provide a great deal of humor, back story and clean fun that adult audiences can enjoy with or without kids in tow. Plus, the movie is packed with fun action, silly gags, and a fun story that ends with a telethon where cameo star Jack Black is fit to be tied, literally.

Bottom line: with the opening sequence of home movies and a musical number just after makes the film start like a blitzkrieg. It quickly settles down into a story of passing greatness, true love, being accepted and coming of age. While it seems there are many themes coalescing, the transitions are smooth and the movie is written in a manner where they don’t clutter the story. The cameos are too numerous to mention, the new songs are clever and funny, and this is the first Muppet Movie in years that does not abandon adult audiences with shoddy or childish plotting. It will leave audiences with only one thing to say: Mahna Mahna! 4 out of 5.

Photo Caption: (Courtesy movie poster)