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  • Friday, February 24, 2012
  • 7:00 PM–11:00 PM
  • Recital Hall
  • $1

The average college student may scoff at The Muppets: an Über-family-friendly film based off a TV show from the 1970s-1980s being made into a big budget movie? And now it’s playing at Calvin? However, any kind of cynicism someone may have entering the theater immediately melts away by the time the first big number “Life’s a Happy Song.” Yes indeed, this film is not just a family film, but a musical as well (remember those?). But it’s also one of the most joyful films this year, or the past ten years even.

Credit writers Jason Segal (a professed Muppet fan) and Nicholas Stoller for crafting a cheerful yet accessible Muppets film with plenty of breaking the fourth wall. Director James Bobin also should be recognized in carefully balancing the comedy in the screenplay as well. As a co-creator of the musical comedy HBO show Flight of the Conchords, Bobin knows how to work with musical comedy well.

The film owes even more to the Flight of the Conchords. Bret McKenzie, member of the titular comedic music duo, has plenty of experience balancing good music with comedic timing, and his influence is seen full force here as the music supervisor to the film. It also helps that talented artists such as Paul Simon and Andrew Bird join in the fun on the soundtrack, adding some serious musical chops to the comedy and bright worldview. Even Starship’s “We Built This City” is utilized well, despite its status as one of the worst songs ever, as the Muppets’ tongue in cheek humor saves its use just enough to prevent it from dragging the movie down.

In fact, there are a lot of 80s throwbacks to be found in the film that will certainly inundate any Muppets fan with nostalgia. But the kids aren’t excluded in the fun either, as this is a family film, that term being used in the best possible way. The Muppets proves that family entertainment doesn’t have to be neutered to the point of inanity. (Indeed, a more scholarly approach to the Muppets would illustrate their use of a Brechtian style of performance in traits of breaking the fourth wall, seeking to educate, the mocking of authority figures, etc.) The Muppets succeeds in everything it tries to be: a great entertaining nostalgic trip for the entire family. And if you aren’t a Muppet fan now, this film will likely change your mind.

- Jacqueline Ristola

February 2012
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