Let me begin with a disclaimer that I've never really gotten the Muppets. I stood by as my parents watched and loved the Muppet Show when I was a child, but I always found it a bit dry and drab. The films ranged from tolerable to unwatchable in my eyes, and re-watching them as an adult did them no favors. As far as these characters go, the Muppet Babies was more my speed. Maybe the puppet show aspect disconnects me from the attempts at absurdity.
So I'm a tough-to-please hater. I heard the raves about the new film and wanted to like it, but suspected my lifelong problem with the live-action characters would stifle me from falling in love with it. It's less than ideal to go into a film with baggage, but I'm just being honest here. As a good luck charm, I took my wife and two kids to a Saturday morning show for which I paid my own way. I hoped that being surrounded by the joy and innocence of my family would melt my defenses.
Those hopes went largely unfulfilled.
That said, The Muppets is by far my favorite Muppets movie, but that's not saying all that much given how I feel about the series. I liked the way the film acknowledged that the time for these characters has passed, and in doing so scrambles for a way to make them relevant again. I cracked up during two or three scenes, including that fantastic musical number in which the chickens clucked their way through Cee-Lo's "Fuck You."
What bothered me was the lack of charm in the Muppets characters. Kermit is supposed to be the everyfrog you identify with, but he's too much of a whiner for my tastes. Fozzie is just pathetic, Gonzo can be interesting as an outsider -- as in Muppets from Space -- but has nothing to do in this movie, Miss Piggy is shrill and agonizing and Animal has always scared the hell out of me. Jason Segel and Amy Adams are game human straight men for the Muppets' antics, and both ham it up marvelously during production numbers, but there's only so much they can do.
Overall I found the movie a bit too cloying and self-aware to distinguish itself from the mass of kiddie flick pap. The plot walks a fine line between straight-up awful and making fun of awfulness, and too often veered toward the former by trying so hard to let me in on the joke. The relentless celebrity cameos jab you in the ribs as if to say, "Hey, laugh just because I'm famous and I'm here," failing to go to the next step by actually giving the stars much of anything entertaining to say or do before they vanish.
I don't think it's gonna work out between us, Muppets. Get back to me when you're animated babies again and maybe we'll talk.
My novel, Stormin' Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.