This is our review for a local paper (I'm Brent, my co-reviewer, who is also my mother, is Roberta). WARNING - unlike most of the other reviews out there, it's largely negative. It's just our honest reactions to the film, (which don't always agree with each other . )
What's it worth, Brent? $5
What's it worth, Roberta? $0
Brent: Despite my own critiques, I was shocked at how much by cute-and-cuddly-character loving co-reviewer hated this movie.
Roberta: Ugh! It was horrendous! All the characters, Muppets and humans, were odd and creepy. Jason Segel's character was like a troubled, twisted child in a big grownup body. Like a big ball of mush. Normally, I really like the actor. Maybe they told him to play it this way?
Brent: Well, Segel also co-wrote the movie.
Roberta: I like him way better when he has a little panache. They stripped him of all of it. I hope they paid him well, the way they humiliated him in this movie.
Brent: He was supposed to be an innocent, “gee-whiz” kind of small town guy.
Roberta: How can you be that old, and be that innocent? Even an immature grown up doesn't act that way! And Walter was just a miniature of the marshmallowy Gary, with NOTHING! Why would The Muppets want him in their show? Give him a little cuteness, or a little edge, or a little something!
Brent: I read on Wikipedia that early in the film's development, Gary was going to be a ventriloquist, which would make Walter his dummy – their co-dependent relationship (and matching suits) would have made much more sense if they had established that in the finished film. Walter's entire life is wrapped up in his geeky obsession with an old film and TV franchise. In other words, the kind of guy I should really relate to. Sadly, Walter suffers from from W.I.M.P (Woefully Ineffectual Meek Protagonist) Syndrome. But Mom, you have to admit, Amy Adams is always a joy to watch. She would have been even better if she had a character to play – Mary's entire motivation is that she wants to be taken out to dinner.
Roberta: She had moments - little brief moments - when she was enjoyable. Mostly though, she was almost as annoying as Segel was. I thought, “what are they doing?!” It was just a big mess. It wasn't sweet and cute like the Muppets used to be, there was no quirky edge that both a child and a parent could enjoy.
Brent: While the “M” in “Muppets” was supposedly derived from “marionette,” I think it now stands for “maudlin.” Showing Kermit the Frog - an icon of optimism - at his most depressed and defeated, is a daring move, and produces a dramatic effect. But then he stays that way for almost the entire movie, just to allow Walter to be the hero. The film follows a very basic “let's put on a show” plotline, driven by a stock villain who's in the wrong profession (what does oil have to do with The Muppets? Get a cynical Hollywood CEO). Every time a new plot point is set up, you know what the payoff is going to be. Animal's anger management councilor, Jack Black, tells him not to play the drums anymore. Guess what he's going to do during the big finale? At one point, the Muppets have to find a celebrity host for their big telethon. We were thinking, “Who is it going to be?!” Well, SPOILER ALERT –
it's just Jack Black again. (We already saw him!) By the way, Black doesn't host voluntarily – he's kidnapped and tied to a chair onstage by our heroes. He spends the entire time desperately screaming to be released and insulting the show going on around him. That bit could have been funny, if they had gotten the right celebrity to do it - somebody genuinely irascible. Black seems more like the kind of guy who would go, “Oh, cool – it's the Muppets! Let's party!”
Roberta: So what did you like about this movie?
Brent: It had moments.
Roberta: Moments? Out of 90 minutes?
Brent: The puppetry (Muppetry?) is as skilled as ever, and it's great to see these colorful character designs again. Heck, it's great to see puppets in a movie, period, after so many years of CGI overload. I also enjoyed most of the musical numbers, especially “Man or Muppet” (“Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?”) (written by Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie). It hit the right tone of absurd and heartfelt at the same time. Maybe they should have just hired McKenzie to write the whole movie and done it as a through-sung Muppet opera?
Roberta: I actually felt sorry for the Muppets for having to participate in this movie. It made me not like them anymore. They say never say never, but I might never go to see one of their movies again. And I might change the channel if they're on TV. The movie was preceded by a Pixar animated short with the Toy Story characters. I would have given it a $10 rating if it were by itself. It was so creative and clever when Buzz Lightyear attended a little therapy session for an array of discarded Happy Meal-type toys. It was touching too, 'cause they just wanted to be loved. I don't know why the Muppets didn't do their movie more like that.