They have also had seven theatrical releases (this 2011 film being lucky number seven). Of the previous six, two utilized celebrity cameos: 1979's The Muppet Movie, and 1984's The Muppet's Take Manhattan. The other four--The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), and Muppets from Space (1998)--featured live-action actors who had roles to play, but no cameos.
The seventh film emulates the TV show and original movie (The Muppet Movie) by involving a lot of famous faces.
Director: James Bobin
Writers: Jason Segal, Nicholas Stoller
Gary, who is a muppet of a man: Jason Segal
Walter, who is a man of a muppet: Peter Linz (mupetteer)
Gary's GF, Mary: Amy Adams
Corporate Jerk who I thought was the bad guy from Avatar but isn't: Chris Cooper
TV exec: Rashida Jones
Was a guest on the original Muppet Show and plays a tour guide: Alan Arkin
Jack Black: Jack Black
Miss Piggy's secretary: Emily Blunt
Hobo: Zach Galifianakis
Rico Rodriguez (who I thought delivered his one line very poorly)
Mila Kunis (I don't remember seeing her)
A movie with a lot of cameos is interesting to me. When I notice that David Grohl is playing the drums in a dive-bar-version of The Muppets called "The Moopets" and his name is Animool (ripping off muppet drummer Animal), I'm excited. It's hilarious to me that The Foo Fighters's lead singer, the drummer from Nirvana, is the poor-man's Animal.
But what if you don't know The Foo Fighters? What if you've never heard of Dave Grohl?
The same goes for every person on the cameo list. In the theater, I heard some parents chuckle when Mickey Rooney appeared. Fans of The Office were probably thrilled by John Krasinski.
I thought Emily Blunt's role was one of the most absurd and hilarious things I've ever seen in a movie. Blunt plays the secretary of Miss Piggy. Miss Piggy is an editor for Vogue. I've seen The Devil Wears Prada. I get the reference. It's subtle and amused me to no end. The Devil Wears Prada grossed over 300 million dollars worldwide. Upon DVD release, it was the top rental in America for December 2006, was in the top 50 through March. Only having December's DVD sales, TDWP was still the 23rd best-selling DVD on Amazon.com in 2006. So, chances are, other people probably got the reference as well.
The interesting thing, to me, about this movie is that future generations may watch it, they may enjoy it, but it can never have the same meaning for them that it will have for people of this time period. Say I'm sixty and show this movie to my 10 year old granddaughter. I think she'll enjoy it. It's silly, it's intelligent, it's emotional. But she won't be like: "Oh, that's the kid from Modern Family! Hey, that's the guy from Big Bang Theory!" They'll be strange people. But, for me, they'll be memories.
A movie with this many cameos becomes a type of pop-culture time-capsule, like the way the "NOW That's What I Call Music" CDs are (some tracks from the original album: "As Long As You Love Me", "Say You'll Be There", "All My Life", "Mmmbop", "Barbie Girl", "Karma Police", "Fly Away").
For those yet to be born, the The Muppets plot may maintain its charm, a relevance. The humor may well strike funny bones. But the cameos won't work. How many people born in 2014 will someday watch The Devil Wears Prada? Will then someday watch The Muppets? (or vice-versa). Will they connect the two?
For example, here are the cameos from the 1979 Muppet movie: Edgar Bergen, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Dom DeLuise, Elliot Gould, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Cloris Leachman, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas, Orson Welles, Paul Williams.
If I were to watch that movie, I wouldn't recognize Edgar Bergen. If Dom DeLuise was in a role as tongue-in-cheek as Emily Blunt, I wouldn't get it. If I had to guess who "Cloris Leachman" is I would say a Bond villain. Wrong. She's a woman, and famous for a lot of comedic TV roles. But I don't know her.
I guess the more important question is: what about kids of the present? Do they think it's funny Zach Galifianakis is playing a hobo? Are they amused at seeing Rashida Jones? Will they come to appreciate the cameos? Is the movie awesome enough that an eight-year old who saw the movie this weekend will buy it on Blu-ray and watch it a bunch more, that he or she will, by the time they're fifteen, and re-watch the movie again, for fun, finally be like "OHHHHHHHHHH, I recognize that person, that's the guy from The Hangover [his or her uncle secretly let him/her watch The Hangover the summer prior],"? Can that happen? Or are the cameos already dated?
Regardless of how Today's Youths and Tomorrow's Adults relate to The Muppets, for those of us well-versed in the pop-culture of the present, the 2011 The Muppets will always be a type of memento.
Did I Like It:
Yes. Gonzo and Animal were my favorites on The Muppet Babies and still made me laugh. There were all sorts of types of humor. Situational (Fozzy's dressing room is a back alley; when it starts to rain he asks Kermit to help him carry the cushions in). Fantastical (travel by map). Satirical (all the kids love school). Fourth Wall. The Abuse of Jack Black (Yes, this is a comedic genre, or should be). There are the classic Muppet schticks: The Chef who doesn't say real words, Beeper beeping, the Old Men, etc.
I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of the film. Especially the minor things. Like, Chris Cooper has a rap scene in his mega-rich office, and, after he starts spitting, these hot, female back-up dancers emerge from a door in the room's back corner. They dance. As Cooper's finishing the song, the girls return to the room. The camera lingers: we see the women pick up snacks, drinks, other items. We can infer from how they return to the room, assume places, have items waiting, that they wait in the room just to come out and dance whenever Cooper breaks into song. Whoever was responsible (The director or Jason Segal) for this could have just had the girls go back into the room and the door close and it would have been like "oh, yeah, he had dancers out of no where, that's kind of funny." Instead, the situation is: "he's so rich and egomaniacal he keeps back-up dancers in a closet, that's funny." At least, I think that's funny. It's the kind of humor I think Leslie Neilsen would be proud of.
None of the characters have a lot to do. All of them get to do a little bit, but no one really has the opportunity to steal the show. "Always leave 'em wanting more."
Without the cameos, I think I would have enjoyed the movie, but I don't think I would have liked it as much. The Grohl and Blunt cameos earned the movie my admiration.
Well done Jason Segal.
I don't know how kids are enjoying the movie. A girl in the row behind me kept begging her mom to leave. And a kid a few rows ahead kept trying to walk out of the theater. He wasn't saying anything, so I don't know if he disliked the movie or what. He'd just...get up and try walking away. Not even running. Maybe he just had other things to do, like Tommy Pickles? The theater was 75% full, and I recall adult laughter but not much child laughter. Maybe the kids and I were laughing at the same time? Or Adults laughing > children laughing? ">" = louder than. So... Yeah, I don't know.
Oh. Is there a robo-trend going on? A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas featured Waffle Bot/Wafflebot. The Muppets has 80's Robot (who is totally bodacious).
What It's Good For:
-if you have fond memories of The Muppet Babies or any of the previous Muppet films
-I don't know if kids will go wild and have the time of their life. But I think you'll be doing them a favor. The movie is fun, emotional, and intelligent. They won't get everything that's happening, but the movie is, I think, a good introduction to higher-level entertainment
-if you like movies. It has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. If 98% of insane critics like the movie, chances are you probably will too
-if you hate a majority of the celebrities listed in the cameo section, you could be upset
-if Jason Segal's hand gestures, for whatever reason, send you into a blind, murderous rage, this movie will send you into a blind, murderous rage
-people who don't like singing, cover your ears
-if a Muppet has done you some wrong and you suffer from PTMD (Post-traumatic Muppet Disorder), don't even attempt this movie
% Character / % Actor's personality
Segal: 10/90 (he didn't seem like a character at all, but exactly like Jason Segal, which is fine because I like his humor)
Adams: 80/20 (hard worker, this one)
Cooper: 60/40 (similar to other Cooper tough-guy characters)
Jones: 30/70 (just Jones pretending to be a jerky executive)
Segal: Forgetting Sarah Marshall; I Love You, Man; How I Met Your Mother
Adams: The Fighter; Enchanted; Catch Me If You Can
Cooper: American Beauty
Jones: I Love You, Man; Our Idiot Brother
Black: High Fidelity; Saving Silverman; King Kong; Kung Fu Panda
The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci