Every party needs a pooper.
Walter is a Muppet and Gary is his human brother. The two are inseparable. Gary is played by Jason Segel who also co-wrote this empty shell of a screenplay. Walter is obsessed with all things Muppets and is a 3rd wheel when it comes to Gary and his girlfriend of 10 years, Mary, who is played by Amy Adams. For their 10 year anniversary, Gary and Mary decide to take a trip to L.A. As usual, Walter joins them as they tour the Muppets studio, which is now in derelict condition because the Muppets have disappeared into a forgotten oblivion. Walter overhears a meeting with the eventual buyer of the studios, Tex Richman, who is played by a whopper of a miscast in Chris Cooper. However, Richman has ulterior motives and unless the Muppets come up with $10 million soon, this evil businessman will demolish the studios to suck out the oil that lies underneath. I, for one, am not drinking this milkshake.
From here The Muppets take us on a stuttering sequence of scenes gathering the long lost Muppets from their respected lands of exile. For the last hour of the film, The Muppets try to convince the television studios to air a Muppets reunion that will help raise the $10 million, although they really could just pool several of the Muppets’ salaries together and easily come up with the dough. The Muppets finally find a willing television studio and an old theatre to have the show. What they don’t do is advertise.
For a film with no story, The Muppets sure does pretend to have several going on. They spend a lot of time rehearsing, but unfortunately, we never get to see much of the actual show. As the debacle that is the Muppet rehearsal unfolds the drama between Gary and Mary gets heated. Mary is finally fed up with Gary always putting his emo brother, Walter, first and Mary leaves. However, the split is quickly reconciled with some flowers resulting in a completely unnecessary storyline. Equally pointless is a simultaneous sub-plot of the internal struggle of Walter, who is warmly accepted by the Muppets, but spends the latter half of the film moping backstage over his inability to find a talent for the show; a show we never see. We finally see his talent during the encore, but this storyline is so underdeveloped that the culmination feels anti-climactic. Again, this is a storyline designed to tile the editing room floor. Let us not forget about Tex Richman, who finds new ways to fail at turning off the power in the theatre and shutting down the Muppets’ production. It’s all so forced.
The writing is what really brings the film down. The screenplay is retched and hollow. And when can we stop giving corny dialogue a pass because it’s “sweet” and “hokey”? When a writer consistently writes silly dialogue it’s because that writer can’t write, right? How I Met Your Mother is an incredibly funny and well-written show starring Jason Segel, but Jason Segel doesn’t write it. The Muppets needed a much stronger, smarter screenplay. Not only is the dialogue weak, but there is no story here. Ok, no good story. There are actually about 3 or 4 pretty bad stories in there.
How The Muppets Could Have Been Improved
Different Writer – Jason Segel is not the guy to write a Muppets movie. The Muppets’ humor, though simple, is smart and this film needed a much stronger screenplay. It’s been 15 some odd years since the Muppets were last on screen. That’s 15 years of material to go on. Along those same lines, the film needed a better story.
Less Sub-plots – The film is made up of several weak sub-plots. Either Walter the Muppet or Mary the girlfriend had to go. Find a different adversary than a rapping Chris Cooper. These subplots feel like they’re only half-way developed; like there was little effort in actually creating them. And the quick and easy appeasement of any kind of adversity in the film just seems so lazy.
More Muppets – An hour and a half long version of The Muppet Show of old wouldn’t work, but most of the screen time that is spent on the rehearsal and production is spent backstage or at least not on the performance itself. What better opportunity is there to show the Muppets in action than during these two parts of the film?
I will say that the opening montage was good even if it felt a lot like Up and Kermit’s first song. was particularly touching. Other than that, I felt bored and stir-crazy.