With The Muppets opening today to introduce a new generation to lonely monsters and wisecracking bears, WW called in its resident plushies to unstuff it.
Aaron: So the new Muppet thing turns out to be exactly like every other Muppet thing (the Muppets get together and scrape together a variety show), except that it’s also a lament about how nothing is as good as a Muppet thing anymore. It’s like going on a road trip with an uncle who wants to show you all the locations from The Muppet Movie.
AP: But every Muppet movie—hell, even the ’70s television show—is about pining for a bygone era, whether it be that of the vaudevillian variety show that The Muppet Show romanticized so well, or the caper flick, or even Treasure Island. This one asks: Can’t we just be happy with an old-fashioned, MGM-style musical number (with puppets)?
Aaron: I love the simplicity, the melancholy. Jason Segel has coordinated the most emo family picture since A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s good to subject kids to that. Breaks their little spirits.
AP: The Muppets have always been depressed. It’s only when they’re together that they really come alive. I thank God that I’m not an amphibian constantly dodging the deep fryer and the increasingly rapey advances of a pig. Fozzie is a loser comedian. Gonzo (underused in this film) is a chicken-fucking outcast.
Aaron: Isn’t The Muppets essentially Sunset Boulevard with that Short Circuit robot in the Erich von Stroheim role? When we meet Kermit, he’s been rattling around his mansion, losing track of his best friends. Basically saying, “I stopped using the phone after Muppets From Space.”
AP: In a movie that had an a capella “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and chickens clucking Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You,” why were “The Rainbow Connection” and “Mahna Mahna” the only songs from the older movies included?
Aaron: You’re like a Stones fan wondering why Mick never sings the old stuff. I cannot imagine this movie being any more shamelessly nostalgic.
AP: I think the tear stains on my jacket are proof I’m not too hard to please. Some of my favorite moments were the original songs by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie. Conchords fans will notice parallels to his other stuff, but these compositions are a delight. The only misstep is when Chris Cooper’s villain goes all rappin’ granny on us.
Aaron: You know who I almost forgot was in this movie? Amy Adams.
AP: She’s upstaged by the new Muppet, Walter, who is 2 feet tall and her rival for Segel’s companionship. Walter’s a perfect addition to the gang, serving as an avatar for all us grown children who still love the plush.
Aaron: Beginning with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Segel has been better at writing for puppets than writing for women, and this movie is a bromance in which the bro is made of felt. The strongest female character is a Reno lounge singer named Miss Poogy.
AP: Gender and race issues (which Miss Poogy and her crew of street-tough knockoffs, the Moopets, are bound to spark an uproar about) seem irrelevant in a movie populated with animals and robots and whatever the fuck Scooter is. Muppets are about embracing difference. This film made me feel the same joy that The Muppet Movie stirs decades later. That’s pretty impressive.
Aaron: Börk, börk, börk.
AP’S SCORE: 85
AARON’S SCORE: 79
SEE IT: The Muppets is rated PG. It opens Wednesday, Nov. 23, at CineMagic, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Cinema 99, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Hilltop, Lloyd Center, Sherwood, Tigard, Wilsonville, Sandy and Roseway.