Soaring back onto the big screen for the first time since Muppets From Space, The Muppets finally made it to the UK in 2012. It was worth the wait. It’s made it up this high in our top ten films of the year poll amongst our writers not necessarily by earning lots of first place placements, but instead by appearing on so many people’s top five lists somewhere. Ladies and gentlemen, The Muppets…
The decision by Disney to keep the UK waiting an extra three months for the British release of The Muppets has had, you might have noticed, an unexpected side effect. Whilst the film is ostensibly a 2011 release, it didn’t make it to the UK until February 2012. And given that our criteria for film of 2012 is centred around British cinema release dates, The Muppets not only qualifies, but it’s gatecrashed our annual top ten.
Given how well the film eventually went down, it’s somewhat surprising that it was all such a struggle to get it greenlit in the first place. Jason Segel has spoken of how he spent six or seven years trying to get the film made, along with his frequent collaborator Nicholas Stoller. Even when it became clear from the first trailers that what they’d put together was working, there were still criticisms (Frank Oz remained less impressed, albeit relatively quietly, both before and after the film’s release).
However, it’s hard to think of a film that’s delighted so many segments of the audience as well in 2012 as The Muppets. As an introduction to the characters, the film was excellent. As a respectful reintroduction to the big screen for those who grew up with The Muppets, the film was brilliant. It’s not perfect, certainly. A little less time with the humans, and a drop more with the Muppets wouldn’t have hurt (although the pairing of Jason Segel and Amy Adams was excellent). And there’s an argument that the narrative itself was hardly groundbreaking.
Yet it worked, and worked incredibly well. There are so many highlights to The Muppets too, from the witty script, to the wry asides and the selective playing around with the fourth wall (something that The Muppets can get away with where others can’t). Some of the cameos – Mickey Rooney, for instance – are very welcome too.
However, there are two things we particularly want to highlight. Firstly, the brilliant, brilliant songs from Bret McKenzie. He won an Oscar for Man Or Muppet, but take another look and listen at the opening number, Life’s A Happy Song, which is arguably the best of the lot. Like the finest of Disney songs, it carries its storytelling load, while also sticking in your head for a long, long time afterwards. The best summation of it that we saw was a YouTube comment, which sadly we can’t track down. But basically, the gist was someone was telling the story of how they went to see the film for a second time, and was singing quietly to Life’s A Happy Song. The lady next to him asked if it was a famous song. His reply? It will be in a month or so.
McKenzie’s work on The Muppets is priceless, frankly, and there’s not a song where he puts a foot wrong.
We’d also point to the massively rousing finale, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was a proper punch-the-air ending. Secondly, we found ourselves willing for something that good to happen. By the time Amy Adams utters the legendary words “Mahna Mahna”, we could have walked straight into the sequel there and then.
It’d be wrong to talk about The Muppets without giving due credit for the best marketing campaign for a film we’ve seen in some time. If you think about it, said campaign dates back to the release of The Muppets singing Bohemian Rhapsody back at the end of 2009. That’s a full two-year build up, the highlights of which remain the priceless Twilight-inspired posters, as well as the numerous trailers.
A sequel, as you probably know, is now in the works, and set for release in late 2013. Already, it seems to have proven divisive, by the decision to cast Ricky Gervais as the film’s human lead. Reaction to this choice has veered wildy, but we think it’d be folly to write Gervais off. His performances in Ghost Town and Cemetery Junction suggest greater range than he’s given credit for, and also, the fact that director James Bobin and co-writer Nicholas Stoller remain on board suggest that The Muppets 2 is in safer hands than it’s being given credit for.
For now, though, The Muppets is the film that fans of the felted collective thought they’d never see, especially as they trailed out of screenings of the hugely underwhelming Muppets From Space. It’s to the immense credit of Jason Segel that he not only championed the project, but he – along with Nicholas Stoller and James Bobin – delivered on it too. Few films have managed to generate quite as many smiles in UK cinemas this year as The Muppets, and it’s ample proof that sometimes, old school really never goes out of fashion.
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