Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kev's Review of "The Muppets": Spoilers Abound!

Okay, so, this is my review of “The Muppets” and it is very, very long.  Folks have all asked me, “Well, what’d you think?”  These are my thoughts about the movie.  You earn 10 points if you read the whole thing.  What can you do with those points? Nothing, but it’s fun to give points to folks (and probably fun to try and keep a tally of these points).  So, blink and rub your eyes and get ready ‘cause here it comes:
So, there I am at the end of “The Muppets,” and the credits have closed.  Lights come up, and I’m totally disappointed!  I cannot believe that there wasn’t an Easter-egg at the end of the credits, and, even worse, that I waited for 12 whole years, and THIS is what they give me?
Come on, I’m a Muppets fan, Disney!  I’m what some call part of the “old school fans,” and have so much time (39 years, in fact) and tons of emotion (maybe I’m bi-polar?) invested in these characters that I am screaming aloud about how you’ve given me only this?!
Only two hours of solid, pure and extreme happiness, laughter and entertainment when I wanted several hours, or even days’ worth.  Yes, this was a visual, emotional and heavenly brick wall that I was happy as heck to slam into face first.  If nothing else, bring on The Muppet Show seasons 4 and 5.
In the meantime, yes, all that above is a compliment.  A big one, in fact.  I want more and I want it now.  The movie absolutely exceeded my expectations.  And why?  Here’s where the review comes in.  Of course, I’m a fan and it is my job to be nitpicky, but I hope to also be as positive as I actually do feel about the movie, story, characters, songs…I loved it all and want more.  Immediately!  Fair warning!  There are SPOILERS.
I’m choosing to discuss the music first because, as all fans know, The Muppets have always been connected to music.  Even as far back as when Jim and Jane Henson were performing “Sam and Friends” to records.  As a matter of fact, some of the most memorable Muppet moments are around songs.

The original songs are as memorable as any that The Muppets have performed in the past.  Of course, Paul Williams’ “The Rainbow Connection” is included and “The Muppet Show Theme” is performed anew so there are some things we’re accustomed to.  But, there are some great songs that I have been singing since I first saw the movie: “Life’s a happy song,” an opening theme that includes the entire feeling for the movie; “Pictures in my head” which Kermit sings as a lament for the current position of The Muppets and will choke you up; and “Man or Muppet” which Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter sing when they are trying to learn who they are and what their place in life is.  Walter performs “The Whistling Caruso” which is beautiful and a most wonderful musical moment that will leave tears in your eyes.

While there are more great original songs, there are some modern-day songs you hear on the radio that has been covered by the Muppets, such as “Forget You” which you’ll cluck along to with Camilla and the chicks (chickens, that is!) and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” appears in the form of The Muppet Barbershop Quartet.  Nitpick#1: There were some non-original songs that appear in the film that are very well-known (“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon, “We Built This City” by Starship) which were performed by the original singers but should have been covered by the Muppets.  During The Muppet Theater’s clean-up, “We Built This City” should have been performed over the montage similar to “Can You Picture That” and the Studebaker re-paints in the first movie. 

But, does “Forget You” which has appeared in many other productions than it probably needs to have appeared limit the timelessness of the movie?  “Single Ladies” by Beyonce and “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga, for example, are two very good songs by two very great artists but the songs are used to death!  Still, the Muppets have always done covers of popular (and obscure) songs.   If “Forget You” hadn’t been performed by Camilla and the Chickens, I probably would have to really nag on this harder; but, it’s been pulled-off in a funny and entertaining way!

I also recall that all of the movies that the Muppets have starred in have always had original songs in them (except Muppets from Space)…but, correct me on that if I’m wrong.

Two other original songs that stick out are “Me Party” which any scorned woman would be able to connect with, as Mary (Amy Adams) and Miss Piggy share with us—who needs a man when you can do your own thing your own way?  Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) on the other hand performs (what several have said is) an out-of-place rap song about his being rich; but, isn’t that what villains do?  The wrong thing at the wrong place at the wrong time?  I thought it was perfect and fit his place in the movie just right; however, until you hear the song on the motion picture soundtrack you don’t know Richman’s motivation to destroy the Muppets other than his lust for oil and more money.


As mentioned, some of the songs connect with the story line.  Unfortunately, Tex Richman’s rap is shortened and you only get hints at the very end about why he hates the Muppets, much less the very ending which hints at how the Muppets win everything back at the end of the movie and why (aw, c’mon—I didn’t give anything away! You know the Muppets are going to win in the end).

Keeping the movie moving with 4 different story lines (The Muppets getting back together, Walter’s search for who he is, Gary and Mary’s relationship, Tex Richman’s evil plan) is hard work; but, they pull it off beautifully!  Yes, the end is a little rushed and you miss (maybe it was cut from the film) when Richman finds redemption (one thing you have to say about villains in a Muppet movie is that, unlike a Disney movie, they don’t fall to their death—there is almost always redemption, jail, just desserts or cowardly running away). 

I do wish they had more clearly spelled-out Richman’s reason for being a baddy and how the Muppets earned back what they lost.

Finally, after seeing a bit of a face-off, I expected a bigger, more epic battle between Miss Piggy and Miss Poogy.  Something just didn’t seem right that there were only two HI-YAH’s in the film when I’ve seen more epic battles in earlier films (after all, when Piggy goes hog-wild in The Muppet Movie, you see her in stunning action, the two karate chops—while very much in her character—pale in comparison).  I want to see her make ham-hock of someone’s chops.

Now, this is going to offend someone and I hope not, but we all remember The Muppet Show had a special celebrity guest star.  I can remember being a kid and wondering ‘who the heck is that? Get rid of them and put on the Muppet characters!’  Yes, the movie may have been a little too fleshy (if I can say that); but, the cameos worked well—like in the original 3 films—where they were people in bit parts playing secondary roles to the Muppets.  But, today, I look back on The Muppet Show and I wonder about some of the Season One guests ‘who the heck is that? Get rid of them and put on the Muppet chaaracters!’ (I’m pretty consistent, huh?)  I’m watching the movie now and I wonder if Jack Black will have the staying power as, say, Milton Berle on The Muppet Show?  Or, maybe Berle is no longer relevant to many others besides me; making me wonder now will Jack Black be relevant in 20 years?  I certainly hope so!  You know, there are those who will see Clint Howard in a movie and say, “Oh, I know him! He’s that guy that was in that movie—what was it?”  I know him, but how many do?  In 20 years, will Jack Black be that person or will he still be recognized?  Right now, I would guess yes; but, how many folks out there remember who Zero Mostel or Avery Schreiber is (die-hard Muppet fans, you don’t count for this question, but automatically earn 9 points for being a fan and knowing who that is).  It was a  nice re-creation of the John Cleese episode of "The Muppet Show" when the characters kidnapped Cleese, who didn't want to be on the show.  But, he famously fits in with the Muppets due to his expressions and behavior—even his image makes me grin. Paired with Animal, it’s a perfect buddy-match!

So, what would the answer have been?  When doing the telethon and being told that they needed a celebrity guest star and they couldn’t have ever found one, and the show had still been successful, it would have shown the TV Executive (Veronica?  Forgot her name and I’m too lazy to look it up) that the Muppets still got game, yo!  However, I’m still very pleased with Jack Black’s performance.  He was very funny, fit the role and was a joy to see.  I always enjoy him in everything he does and was thankful that, if they have a celebrity guest star, that it was him.  Someone with talent, and not some fly-by-night nobody who happens to be a star because they don’t have talent (ie, those Jersey Shore people who have a scheduled cameo in 2012’s ‘The Three Stooges’ movie—more on that after I see the film).
Was I touched by the movie?  Absolutely!  I even tried to call the phone number for the Muppet Telethon to help them raise the $10million, but (according to this website) the number on the screen was listed as “877-504-8423 is a number reserved by ABC for movies and TV series. Calling it will provide the following short tape recorded message: "Thank you for calling ABC. The number you have reached is a fictional non-working number used for motion picture and television production."


Obviously, I love The Muppets.  Paired with “Peanuts” they are my influence to do what I do with Muley.  So, the core cahracters you know I love.  I am very glad, too, to see a return of many other core characters who’ve been put in the background for so long: Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Rowlf the Dog, Scooter, Beauregard, Camilla.  I am also freaking out at finally seeing Thog again, and Uncle Deadly, and Lew Zealand!  Everyone did a splendid job of bringing back to life characters who have been gone for more than 30 years.  I'm proud of you all.

The Newbies:  Gary, Mary and Walter—let’s discuss.  When I began seeing a lot of the pre-production news and it was celebrity cameo after celebrity cameo, I got nervous.  That’s too much flesh in a Muppet movie.  I watch the Muppets to see?  Correct: The Muppets (you get 5 points).  And then came the announcement that the human stars of the film were cast and, oh my gosh!  I felt like we were going to get “Space Jam” or “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” where the characters play second-fiddle to the human stars, I was scared to death.  Then, I heard about the “new Muppet” Walter, and I felt like I might be watching the Muppets’ version of “Electra” which wasn’t about Electra at all but more about the little girl she had to protect—would the new film be more about this new character and less about the characters I wanted to see? 
And what about  another new character named 80’s Robot?  Is he the Muppets’ answer to Pee-wee’s Playhouse’s Conky?  Or Sesame Street’s long-forgotten Sam the Robot?  Or an answer to the long-missing M.A.M.M.A. from The Muppet Show?  What is 80’s Robot?  AWESOME!  This character has had me cracking up, and I hope if there is any cut footage of 80’s Robot that it shows up on the DVD somehow, somewhere.

You know my answer already because I said they beautifully worked 4 stories into one movie with near perfection!
I love Gary and Mary and wish they were my next door neighbors!  More so, I love Walter!  He’s the embodiment of every Muppets fan in the world.  He has a beginning to his life story and how he got involved with The Muppets.  All us Muppets fans have that story about how we recognized our first connections to those great characters that Jim Henson created.  I even dressed as Walter to go see the movie the first night it was released because of some of the things I had seen just before the film.  So, if Gary and Mary would be my neighbors, then Walter would be one of my best Muppets-fan buddies with whom I would call over weekly to have Muppet Marathons!  Hmmm…not a bad idea!  Who’s game, e-mail me!  I think I’m about to start planning Muppet Movie Marathon Mondays! (Can I Trademark that?)

Sorely missed were Johnny Fiama, Sal Manilla and Kermit’s nephew Robin.  I also missed seeing Bean Bunny.  There would only be one more thing that would have made this feel very old-school to me, and that would have been a Sesame Street character cameo.

In closing about the Characters, I just have to offer up this great compliment: I want action figures of them to match my Palisades action figures!  Sure, there were several that I still need to call my Palisades collection complete (Sal Manilla, articulated Robin, Bobo and Bean Bunny); but, now I feel like I need more in the guise of Walter, 80’s Robot, Bobo in a suit (and maybe even the Moopets).
There were so many movie previews that I did not want to ruin the film by watching them, and I can tell by what I’ve seen since that lots of things have been cut from the film and I hope part of the DVD release will be an opportunity to watch the full director’s cut.  After all, I waited 12 years for a movie and I can tell you I’d gladly sit through 3 hours of Muppet motion picture without issue.

So, here is my long, giant book about “The Muppets.”  Am I a happy fan?  Yes, very much so.  I saw it twice in theaters during the opening weekend (but, wanted to see it many more times—I’m ready for it to come on DVD promptly so I can watch it over and over and over and…).  I’m very proud of all those who worked on the script, the performers of the Muppets, the human actors, and send out a HUGE thanks to Jason Segel who took a long way around to get to Disney and say, “We can do this, let’s do it.”  Without that guy we probably wouldn’t have had this film at all, so “Thanks, Jason!”
You can certainly get from the Muppets that you cannot get from anybody else is the togetherness: I saw everyone from parents and kids, teenagers, young adult couples (or groups of friends like I was lucky enough to have with me when I saw the film the first night), and even elderly couples all showing up to watch a very most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational film!
So, Diz, bring on a new The Muppet Show TV series and another movie, already!  Gimme, gimme, gimme! 

Now, stop reading this website for now and GO SEE “THE MUPPETS!”
By the way, these are Avery and Zero:

Relevant Websites (and where some images were taken from):

Another interview by Kevin L. Williams: Muppeteer Gabriel Velez:

Monday, November 21, 2011

THE MUPPETS! Interview by Kevin L. Williams

I was given an opportunity to interview Kami Asgar and Rocco Fonzarelli, sound engineers for the upcoming film, The Muppets!  Click the image above, or click here, to read the article at Muppet Central.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Muley is visiting: MAW Productions Live Chat via Facebook! (and Muppets!)

Get ready, gang, because MAW Productions will be hosting a group chat this Friday, Nov. 11, at 9:00 pm Central Standard Time. If you are online and would like to chat with us for a while, lets talk. The topic will start off about how we got into self publishing, the future of MAW Productions and how have we stayed around so long. Plus, your takes on digital comics and the new 52 from DC. Click on the MAW logo below to visit the group facebook page and join up! Plus, 20+ visitors and Martheus Wade will post up old images of Jetta compared with images today. A picture even older than the one below from about 18 years ago!

 Our great pal Zach Haumesser found and posted these old drawings by Kevin from 12 years ago.  The images were part of the video game, Muppet Monster Adventure, and were submitted for fun without even expecting they were going to be a part of the actual game.  But, they're still fun to see!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thanksgiving Is Here!

You all know how much I love to eat!  So, I'm always thankful for this holiday.  I'm thankful for my friends, family, work, food, fun, shelter, clothes...What all are you thankful for?  Share in comments below or visit the conversation over on facebook.