"What movie is this line for?" asked the older lady who had just walked up to me, and I told her it was for The Muppets, to which she responded "Huh?", and not in that I Didn't Hear You sort-of-way, but in that "Aren't you an adult?" kind of way. That's OK, though; I was not the only adult, in fact, the majority of this particular queue was old enough to buy alcohol legally. We were here because of a love for Jim Henson's creations -- and because we managed to get on the guest list.
You see, Jeremy Smith (aka Mr Beaks of AICN and Internet fame) set this screening up at The Grove in Los Angeles -- a nice place where you can look at people who most likely make more money than you -- and once inside the Pacific Theatres auditorium, Mr. Smith-Beaks asked us to indulge him as he led us in a Mahna-Mahna singalong, which reminded me of what I saw 20 minutes earlier: 3 men in the restroom singing a couple verses from Wham's "Last Christmas" while taking a piss (1 at the urinal, the other 2 in separate stalls). Because singing was involved in both instances, obviously. I didn't notice any dudes in the audience holding their dicks while singing Mahna-Mahna (and it wasn't for lack of looking, either).
Preceding the feature was a Toy Story Toon titled "Small Fry" and I don't know why I had the stones to doubt Pixar about this one, but I did; I figured this would be a cute time-filler and they probably got Tom Hanks' brother from Acts of Violence to do Woody's voice, as well as the relatives of all the other famous actors who worked on the trilogy to take over. But no, they got the whole fuckin' cast back together, they got Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, and even the guy who played Patricia Richardson's douchebag husband from that Tool Time show.
Because this was a Pixar joint, the motherfuckers behind-the-scenes put their usual 220% into telling this brief tale about Buzz Lightyear's visit to a fast-food joint. It's good stuff, and considering how goddamn perfect the last film ended, I'd prefer that the Toy Story adventures continue like this, rather than with another film; in addition to giving us a few minutes of Good Times, these shorts also serve as postcards informing the rest of us about how our guys are doing. They're doing well, by the way, thanks for asking.
So then The Muppets started, and in the opening scene we're introduced to a new Muppet named Walter. I once worked with a guy named Walter and he always felt a need to tell me stories of his many sexual conquests, each disgusting verbal image punctuated with "I was piping her, dawg! Piping her!" Anyway, the non-piping Walter is the younger brother of Jason Segel's character, and I guess Segel is a real mensch, because he doesn't give a shit that his mother obviously slept around one drunken night with a Muppet behind her husband's back, instead he treats Walter with the kind of love and respect that only a kind-hearted sibling can give. They do way too much stuff together, though, and if you disagree with me, then you're disagreeing with The Adorable Amy Adams.
Yeah man, she's in this movie too, and I think she may have gone a tad Method in going for the Miss Piggy parallels because she appears a tad bit heavier here, or maybe she was channeling her inner Cookie Monster before someone told her this was a Muppet movie, not Sesame Street. The extra weight is most likely a result of having given birth before production, and besides, this is The Adorable Amy Adams we're talking about, this only means that there's even more of her adorable self to find adorable. C'mon, this is Amy Adams, people. She's been in Leap Year and that Ben Stiller museum bullshit and I still haven't found her doing anything I'd put in the neighborhood of Wrong. She looks wonderfully fine, whether that's baby weight or nachos weight.
So yeah, Adams' character is also Segel's love interest and she's been incredibly accommodating, patient and gracious about his brother tagging along with them on every goddamn thing they do. Most recently, she's given the OK to Walter going with them on a 10-year-anniversary trip to Los Angeles, even though privately she wishes the fuckin' guy can take a solo trip while she and the Segs can have some two-way fun times. Well, she's in luck because shortly after they arrive in the city of shitty traffic and shittier parking, Walter does take a breather in Kermit the Frog's old office at the now rundown Muppet Studios -- where he fortunately overhears that bad Chris Cooper's plan to demolish the old Muppet Theater (because he's an evil oil magnate named Tex Richman and the location happens to be located on top of some prime vehicular go-juice).
What to do? I'll tell you what to do -- you go Electric Boogaloo on the motherfuckers and try to raise enough money (ten million dollars) to buy the theater back. So off they go -- Walter, The Adorable Amy Adams, and that Segal guy -- to convince Kermit to get the ol' Muppet gang together and stage a telethon with the singing and the dancing and the twisting and the kung-fu fiiiiiiighting. Deedle-deedle-dee-dee-do.
Let me talk about this Segel dude (who also co-wrote the screenplay); I've never seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall or that TV show where Neil Patrick Harris bangs women, so I'm not that up on the guy and his business and his talent or lack thereof. But I've seen him on Craig Ferguson and I've also seen him on Craig Ferguson's show, and he came off as very likable and funny. He seemed like a good dude, and fuck it, I'm saying he is a good dude, because in the end, he shepherded this project out of the Good Idea Barn and into the Pasture of Motherfuckin' Fruition -- and I apologize for writing such a stupid sentence in a blog already full of them.
When Segel and the Muppets try pitching the telethon to a high-powered TV exec (ah, Rashida Jones, the things you do to me), she counters back with charts showing them how irrelevant they are nowadays, telling them how Cynicism sells, not some fruity Muppets who are all about good feelings (one of the hit shows is something called "Punch Teacher", and that clip ends with a hilariously fucked-up off-screen line of dialogue).
That made me wonder how much of the studio exec dialogue came out of Segel's real-life pitch meetings, as he tried to get a new Muppet movie off the ground. The exec tells them that they need a big star to headline the telethon, and I'm sure that was the same shit Segel was told when it came to making The Muppets; in the film's case they got Amy Adams and some celebrity cameos (I was particularly fond of seeing Alan Arkin and Emily Blunt -- it's a Sunshine Cleaning reunion!), but for the telethon, I was less impressed and more amused by who they managed to get -- especially when you consider that there's someone in the Muppet Theater audience who can arguably be considered a bigger star at this particular point in time.
Some of the original Muppet crew (including that contentious muthafucka Frank Oz) have been vocal about not
digging on this movie, and I guess the "fart shoes" gag might be part of
the problem. Perhaps that kind of humor never made it to the Muppets back in the day, but I can't be too sure. Listen man, I haven't seen any of the other Muppet movies
since I was in elementary school, so I can't compare this joint with The
Muppet Movie or The Muppets Take Manhattan, because I honestly don't
remember them all too well plot-wise.
But I must have part Robocop in me though, because
while I can't really remember them, I can still *feel* them and this new one left
me feeling just as happy -- if not more -- as the previous Muppet flicks
made me feel, so that sounds like a class-A success to me. Even Walter felt like an old friend, even though this is his first barbecue. Also, the
fart shoes gag is the only bathroom joke I can recall from the film, and
it's not even that bad, it's really just an old-fashioned whoopie
cushion gag, not twenty-seven Eddie Murphys in various stages of latex make-up and fat suits, unable to control themselves (to
Anyway, the end result -- directed by some dude from Flight of the Conchords and featuring songs written by another dude from Flight of the Conchords -- is both a highly-entertaining family film (a family film that sneakily manages to feature a certain hit song by Cee Lo Green -- yes, I know they credit the clean version in the soundtrack, but you Just Fucking Know that Segel and company meant the other one) and a love letter to these goddamn Muppets, and it's absolutely brimming with Neo-Sincerity (while still having a sense-of-humor about certain accepted cliches, getting all meta on us). This is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve, one that embraces the ever-fading ideals of Kindness and Compassion, while insisting to the audience that the most important thing is to just fuckin' Try.
Man, to take that proud stance in a time where cynicism runs rampant and mean-spiritedness is disguised as being "cool", well that makes The Muppets pretty goddamn punk, if you ask me.
That tea & crumpet-eating mofo Martin Amis once wrote about the first time he saw E.T. The Extra Terrestrial; he said he was fuckin' bawling his British-novelist eyes out by the end of it. Then he noticed that the conveniently well-rounded group of people sitting to the left and right of him (Japanese businessman, black guy, punk rocker, mother -- they were only a construction worker away from singing YMCA) were also crying. He said that they weren't so much crying for the on-screen characters, as they were crying for their "lost selves". I was thinking of that while pulling an Amis by glancing for tears in the audience (there were a few). Me, I didn't cry; I was feeling the film, but not that deeply. Besides, I don't cry at movies, I'm a man -- I wait until I'm alone in the privacy of my own home to let that shit flow.
But yeah man, those E.T. tears, I believe, are the same kind of tears that also rolled down many a moviegoers' chubby cheeks during the first 15 minutes of Up and the last 15 minutes of Toy Story 3 -- the dreaded Growing Up Sucks A Dick But We Have To tears (aka Pixar Tears). An old man wakes up in bed without his wife, a teenager sighs as he sits alone in his car, a boy says goodbye to his alien father/brother surrogate -- sure, we know these are fictional characters in a fictional setting in a goddamn movie, but while the on-screen events are not real, the fuckin' brutal emotions they stir up in us (not to mention related past memories) are way too fuckin' real. Fuck you, Wistfulness! Goddamn you to Hell, Nostalgia! That's why we cry at fuckin' "cartoons", asshole hack comedian whose name I can't remember but will probably be famous someday on a sitcom that will last 10 years. That's why.
All right, fine -- that's why *I* cry at the fuckin' things.
So on that tip, you have The Muppets: a bunch of these cloth-skinned creatures philosophizing in song about the lovers and dreamers (and me!) who believe in dreams and illusions, despite the general factual consensus proving otherwise -- But you know what, man? Perhaps you're not alone in having these thoughts. Maybe we ALL have 'em! -- which is the kind of thing some of us want to hear in our old age, long after we reached the end of our formative years and had the curtain lifted, introducing us to the ugly, horrifying, crippling machine of despair, anguish, and hatred that is commonly referred to as The Real World (not to be confused with that MTV show featuring some nasty dude who shot snot rockets out of his nose and grossed out some raza dude with HIV by eating peanut butter with his nasty booger hands. Man, if I was Pedro, I'd have spit in that peanut butter and say "Try eating that shit now, ya fuckin' disgusting no-shower-taking, nose-picking, bike-riding, born insecure, rat-soup-eating MUTHAFUCKA!" ).
So on the tip of *that* tip, I will be very surprised if I find out that I was the only one in that theater who knew that men & women were really controlling and voicing the Muppets, and yet still chose to believe Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, Kristen Schaal, Animal, Rowlf, Swedish Chef, non-piping Walter, etc., were real. Because they sure as fuck were real when I was a kid. It's still real to me, dammit! I STILL BELIEVE!
It's a sweet film, and a very funny one at that; maybe not Pixar-quality, but fuck man, nobody's perfect. Besides, I'd have to see it again to make that judgment. As it is, it's definitely one of the better examples of the kind of family film that both the kids and adults will enjoy, and no one will feel like a complete schmo for buying a ticket to -- unless you are in fact, a schmo who refuses to enjoy awesome shit. Me, I couldn't stop smiling during it.
In conclusion, Amy Adams gets to eat a Pink's chili dog in the movie and that to me, is oceans of awesome to watch, and not in some sexual way, either. Don't get it twisted, peeps. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to have another Me Party.
ALTERNATE SPOILER-ISH ENDING
Hey man, let me tell you something that happens in the movie, and how fucked up it was to me. So the Muppets find Gonzo and try to convince him to do the show. He (it?) says no, because he has a successful business distributing bathroom fixtures and he's on his way to 1% Land, so off they go, disappointed. Because this is a movie, he changes his mind by the next scene, and to show his commitment, he blows up the warehouse containing his entire business. Which is fine for him, but what about the hundreds of loyal workers he just fucked out of a job? In this economy, no less. What a fuckin' asshole. WHAT A FUCKIN' ASSHOLE. That piece of shit, I never liked him, I never trusted him. For all I know, he had me set up and had my friend Angel Fernandez killed. But that's history. I'm here, he's not.
Oh, and they sing Starship's "We Built This City", which made me really uncomfortable because it reminded me of a rather unfortunate (and NSFW) soundalike I once caught on Sirius/XM. You've been warned.
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