Hey, did you see that awesome Fraggle Rock Movie script review from the other day? It was totally neat! And legible!
For my next trick, I’ll be reviewing Jason Segel and Nick Stoller’s Muppet movie script, tentatively titled “The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time.”¬ù That’s quite a claim, seeing as we’ve got at least three movies that have already laid claim to that moniker. But will the upcoming film put itself in the running to earn its own title? Probably not, but it will probably come a lot closer than anything else from the last couple decades.
Just like my Fraggle script review, I’m going to keep this one as spoiler-free as possible. If spoilers are your thing, Ain’t It Cool News scooped me on their script review, and they loaded it with lots of stuff which, if you read it, it’ll totally ruin your movie-going experience. I’ll be focusing more on what us Muppet fans will think of the script rather than specific details. Ok, enough of the boring stuff, let’s get to the meat!
Our story starts with Gary (to be played by Jason Segel) and his not-quite-a-Muppet, Walter. Walter is a Muppet fanatic (sound like anyone you know?), almost to a disturbing degree. He’s a little hard to read; depending on the performance, he can have that “new Muppet smell,”¬ù or he can be the Jar-Jar Binks of the Muppet world. Walter comes fully-stocked with his own catchphrases and that patented mixture of silliness and heart, but without knowing who’s performing him, I can only speculate. And sadly, the script doesn’t help my opinion. As we all know, the best characters come from the puppeteers themselves, and I’d be wary of any character written to be “one of the gang”.
Gary (and his girlfriend, Mary) appear a little two-dimensional in the script, but I’m more willing to ignore it for now. Segel is known for ad-libbing in his films, and as long as he’s given that opportunity in this movie, he might go down in history as one of our favorite human Muppet movie stars (after Charles Grodin, of course). I think it’d be a mistake to not let them ad-lib anyhow, because not only do Segel and friends shine under those circumstances, but the Muppet performers do as well. And the script leaves enough room for improvisation for some great potential (not to mention some terrific DVD extras). Segel also wrote himself some scenes that reek of his fanaticism, like flirting with Piggy, singing a song on the Muppet Show stage, and having a hand in getting the Muppet gang back together. It’s not a bad thing; I would probably put myself in the same roles if I were writing the script.
Almost ten minutes into the movie, we see our first Muppets. Statler and Waldorf have their standard cameo to introduce the main conflict (and to break the fourth wall), and then disappear until the credits. Gary, Mary, and Walter push the plot forward for another five minutes until we find Kermit, whose intro (if done well) is a hilarious parody of a familiar family film. Fifteen minutes until we see the Muppets is a bit long to wait, and as important as the plot is, I’d think about cutting that down. Especially because these family films tend to run on the short side, and we’re going to want as many Muppet sightings as possible.
As Kermit tries to get the gang back together (which is thankfully done in the first act, rather than being the purpose of the entire movie), we’re treated to our first batch of cameos, parodies, and fast-paced cut scenes. There’s a few of these in the film, which help keep the visuals exciting, but might sell out the film to the pop culture references that plague the Shrek franchise. The cameos are almost all A- and B-list celebrities, which is a little high to reach, even for Jason Segel. He does have a lot of famous friends, and I would love to see most of them agree to be in this film, but I can’t help but wonder if Segel and Stoller are setting themselves up for the C- and D-listers that they’ll be able to schedule and afford. Still, every big name mentioned in the script would be a real honor to add to the Muppet Wiki.
Segel also has his favorite characters, which get a lot more screen time than previously. Kermit and Fozzie thankfully stay the most visible, but characters like Janice, Rowlf, and Sam the Eagle have several spotlights of their own. He also knows how the Muppets’ comedy works, avoiding obvious puns and giving us clever and fast-paced jokes to keep us on the edge of our seats. He also makes a point of saying that every effect will be done with puppets as opposed to CGI. One of the climactic scenes is labeled with, “In our one or maybe two CGI shots in the entire film, we see a wide shot of Los Angeles” but perhaps I’ve said too much.
There are also several specific throwbacks to the previous Muppet movies, including cameos, props, and entire songs. Segel has said in interviews that he is trying to make a Muppet movie that goes “back to their roots” What better way to do that than to cut-and-paste from those movies he’s trying to emulate? Thankfully, it’s done in a believable way, keeping it fresh for audiences not as familiar with the original films, yet easily recognizable for everyone else.
One problem a lot of the fans have is that it’s another “We have to put on a show to save the Muppets!”¬ù plot. Well, that’s true. But it works. The movie isn’t epic in the sense that the Muppets are saving the world or discovering the meaning of life, but they’re doing what they do best, and I’d argue that it’s the kind of movie they need to make to reestablish the property and give us more original storylines. Still, the show they put on is only a portion of the script. There’s a lot of action and mystery throughout the rest of the story that will keep it far from predictable.
One awkward scene is a big announcement regarding the future of the Muppets. Sure, we’d love to see a new Muppet Show, but it doesn’t seem like it’s the right place to make a declaration like this. It reads more like wishful thinking on Segel’s part, and I would be surprised if the plans set during the production of the film are still in tact by its release. And because we’ve been teased and burned before, I’m sure we’ll all stay wary, even after hearing the big news.
All in all, the script gives me hope that we might actually get another good Muppet movie one of these days, even if it isn’t the Greatest of All Time. Segel’s got a good idea of how this movie should be, and he understands how we fanatics think. My hopes and expectations are high, or at least as high as they could possibly be in a post-Jim universe, and that might be the very best Jason Segel and Nick Stoller can expect from us.
Just like for the Fraggle Rock movie script, I will be answering non-spoiler questions on the ToughPigs forum and via e-mail, so feel free to contact me either way.
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