Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

"Stop and look around you, the glory that you see, is born again each day, don't let it slip away, how precious life can be!"

It had been 8 years since a Muppet movie had been released and only 2 years since Jim Henson had sadly passed away. But the movie that Jim Henson had originally wanted to be made was going to be made as a lasting tribute to him. "The Muppet Christmas Carol" was the first Muppet project produced after Jim Henson had died as well as Muppet performer Richard Hunt (performer of Scooter among others) who died in 1992. But what was produced was better than many probably would have expected.

The movie is very simple, a retelling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, done a million times over but this one actually has Gonzo (performed by Dave Goelz) and Rizzo the Rat (performed by Steve Whitmire) narrating the film from within the film. Scrooge is played by Michael Caine and the film is directed by Brian Henson (Jim Henson's son). The critical role of Kermit (previously performed by Jim Henson) was handed off to Steve Whitmire and the role is done perfectly!

I feel the film works incredibly well because the environment they produce is perfect. Michael Caine was the best choice for Scrooge, the roles of the Muppets are wisely chosen. I think the best Muppet casting is Statler and Waldorf as Marley (& Marley) and they get their chances of heckling Scrooge! The songs are amazing including the "missing" song of "When Love is Gone" (missing for some reason from the widescreen version of the film on the DVD but on the full screen version). The songs are touching and can actually work very well as simply Christmas songs (like "It Feels Like Christmas" and "One More Sleep Till Christmas").

I think this is a very good tribute to Jim Henson (the film is dedicated to Henson and Hunt), out of respect Henson's "signature" character of Rowlf does not speak (nor does Dr. Teeth) and Hunt's characters of Scooter and Janice are silent as well (not to be heard again until "Muppets From Space" for Scooter and "It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie" for Janice). The movie is a pretty damn close adaptation of the novel and goes down as my personal favorite version of the story.

The Muppets (2011)

"Are you a Muppet or a man?"

It's been 12 years since The Muppets have graced the silver screen and they have finally returned. The movie was surprisingly amazing and incredibly touching especially for anyone who grew up with The Muppets. I grew up during a time when The Muppets were pretty damn popular. During the 90s The Muppets were popular enough to have 3 films come out as well as a revival of "The Muppet Show" in the incarnation of "Muppets Tonight". I also grew up with "Muppet Babies" as well as the movies that came before I was born. Sadly, after 1999's "Muppets From Space" the franchise died out and The Muppets were relegated to TV movies and direct-to-video movies.

The movie follows Gary (Jason Segal) and his brother Walter (a Muppet played by Peter Linz) on their way to Los Angeles where Walter wants badly to go on a tour of the Muppet Studios. Along for the ride is Mary (Amy Adams) who is Gary's girlfriend, who is going to L.A. to spend her anniversary with Gary. When they get there they realize the Muppet Studio is shambles and the theater is dire need of help when Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) decides to buy the studio & theater to tear them and dig for oil. So Gary & Walter go on a trip to find Kermit (played by Steve Whitmire) and get him to get the team back together and try and get the money to buy the theater back.

The movie has tons of great jokes that really made me laugh out loud. The songs were great, the story was very interesting and it ties the movies to the original TV show. There were a lot of jokes that I honestly don't think kids would get but it had jokes for kids too. I love movies that have jokes for both adults and children. The movie wasn't without it's downfalls. The big thing I didn't like about the movie is that I think the movie didn't really need the side story of Gary & Mary. Every time they cut back to that story I felt like it took you out of what was going on in the movie. I honestly didn't care about them and their relationship, it felt like it was out of place in this movie. I think Eric Jacobson who played Fozzie and Miss Piggy (sadly replacing Frank Oz, who opting out of returning) does not do a very good job as Fozzie. He's fine as Miss Piggy, but his voice is too high for Fozzie, I cringed a few times hearing his voice. And finally, I felt Gronzo was very left out of this movie. After the movie was over and I turned to friend and said this movie needed more Gonzo.

The new added Muppet of Walter I felt worked very well. I had a feeling he would be annoying and/or not fit well but he fit well with the original Muppets. He ends the show with an interesting little bit, but nothing takes away from the "Rainbow Connection" finale that is performed by all the Muppets and really gave me chills and brought a tear to my eye. I'm a self proclaimed Muppet fan and have loved all the movies and TV shows and seeing that song performed by all the Muppets really was touching and moving.

Overall I consider this as the best movie I've seen in 2011. It's got everything I could possibly ask for in a Muppet movie and I am very pleased with what I saw.