Archive for the ‘Disney’ Category

Lost Boy TV: Phineas and Ferb

The Disney Afternoon has not existed since 1999, but fans of the shows that ran in that prestigious time slot are still ones that are remembered to this day by the people who grew up watching them. Many fans have been almost demanding Disney to make new animated shows that were of the quality of the ones found in the Disney Afternoon, but there have not been many results worth mentioning (except for Kim Possible, which was absolutely fantastic), but now we have Phineas and Ferb. If there was ever a show that should have been part of that programming block, it’s this one.

When I first sat down to watch Phineas and Ferb, I was hesitant. I had been burned by shows on the Disney Channel before, but my hesitation had become completely removed the first time I heard the ska theme song and saw penguins rocking out on guitars. I was hooked immediately.

Phineas and Ferb almost always follows the same exact formula for each episode: Phineas and Ferb create a crazy invention and their sister Candace tries to bust them to their mother. While that main storyline is going on, the B story is always their pet platypus, Perry, also known as Agent P, fighting against his nemesis, the villainous Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Whatever Doofenshmirtz builds to get rid of something he hates or would allow him to take over the Tri-State Area ends up destroying or otherwise getting rid of whatever Phineas and Ferb make right before Candace can bust the boys to their mother. Perry always returns to the response of “Oh, there you are Perry” and everyone has a snack. Rinse, wash, and repeat for around 150 episodes.

While the show has a very obvious formula, each episode feels incredibly fresh. Every one of the boy’s inventions are individual ideas that are never repeated (except for one, but that’s because the second time is a musical version of the episode, but that’s something I will touch upon later). In one episode they can be playing with giant Spinning Tops of Death and in another the boys can be fighting giant treehouse robots with their sister and her friend Stacy. Even Doofenshmirtz and Perry’s story lines never stagnate. There’s always a different “-inator” that Doofenshmirtz makes to “fix” his problems with the world along with a new way to capture the intrepid platypus secret agent (my personal favourite is encasing Perry in quick drying chocolate to stop him from stopping the good doctor from melting all of the chocolate in the Tri-State Area in order to sell his own chocolate at exorbitant prices).

Most of what keeps Phineas and Ferb from stagnating is the consistently high quality of the writing. The jokes fly fast and stick leaving the viewer with numerous quotable lines for each 11-minute episode. The writing also follows the Disney standard of animation in that it writes both for kids and the adults who watch television with (or in my case, like) children. Part of this stems from the fact that it was created by Dan Povenmire (a writer for Rocko’s Modern Life and a director of a number of Family Guy episodes in earlier seasons. He also voices Dr. Doofenshmirtz) and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (who also wrote for Rocko’s Modern Life and voices Major Monogram on Phineas and Ferb). There is definitely a lot of similarities that can be drawn between the styles of humour in Rocko’s Modern Life and Phineas and Ferb, the largest of which would just be how unbelievably bizarre both of the shows can get at times (Giant Floating Baby Head and the Jewish Mexican Cultural Fair are two that immediately spring to mind).

The other major component to the show’s success is the quality of the characters. Phineas and Ferb are two absolutely brilliant children with imaginations that are just demanding to be expressed into new and interesting ideas. What is most interesting about them, but is something that really isn’t focused upon in the show too often (which is a subtlety that I’m glad exists) is that the brothers are actually stepbrothers. Phineas and Candace’s mother and Ferb’s father married when the boys were young, but the relationship between the entire family unit is just like a family where all of the members are blood related. There is never any amount of dysfunction besides the standard sibling rivalry, which leads us to Candace. Her major role is to try to reveal her brother’s adventures to their mother, but this usually gets in the way of her having an actual life of her own, much to her friend Stacy’s chagrin. Their mother, Linda, is eternally patient with her daughter (though she believes that Candace is completely crazy) and wonderfully doting towards Phineas and Ferb. All of this hides (rather poorly) the fact that she used to be an 80’s one-hit-wonder. Their father is not seen all that often earlier in the show, but when he does finally show up, he just looks upon the inventions of the boys with a blissful joy and relative unawareness.

Even Dr. Doofenshmirtz gets some character development, partially from his constant insistence of telling Perry the Platypus the back story that led to the invention of his latest “-inator”, partially from his hatred of his perfect brother Roger, but mostly from the existence of his daughter, Vanessa. Dr. Doofenshmirtz wants nothing more than to get his teenage daughter to love him, but she usually is just hopelessly embarrassed by him. He also is not really that evil (seriously, he runs a company called Doofenshmirtz Evil, Inc. that has it’s own jingle), he just goes about solving his problems in a very odd manner.

A musical version of an episode was mentioned earlier, but musical numbers are not just limited to that one episode. Most episodes, in fact, have a song in them written for just that episode; on top of that, they’re exceptionally well done.

The theme song (“Today’s Going to be a Great Day”) for the show is performed by Bowling for Soup and really sets the tone and premise for the show up perfectly (and shows a number of inventions that Phineas and Ferb might do over the course of their summer adventures, and by the end of season 3, all but one of them have been accomplished (it’s actually a running joke within the show)). Most of the songs were written by Dan Povenmire and/or Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, and as such, fit perfectly within the tone of the show. Some of the best songs in the show can be found in the season 1 episode “Dude, We’re Getting the Band Back Together”, which also happens to be one of the best episodes. What is so amazing about the music is that the songs do not necessarily follow a specific musical style, they range from disco, to country, to 80’s rock, to even jazz and ska. There are 3 separate soundtracks for the show and they are well worth a listen even if you aren’t a fan of the show.

Phineas and Ferb is easily one of the most brilliant shows I have seen in ages. It has wonderful writing, well developed characters, fun stories, and amazing music and animation. Drop whatever you are doing and watch this show. 3 seasons of it are available on NetFlix Streaming and you will not be disappointed.

Cinematic Adventures: Tinker Bell

After growing up in the 90’s, the thought of watching a straight-to-video Disney film is one that did not really interest me. Most of the sequels they released were unanimously terrible and only a few gems glimmered out of the river of ankle-deep sewage. Oddly enough, shortly after Disney announced that it’s DisneyToon Studios would not be releasing it’s straight to video sequels (despite the fact that they are now making a spin-off to Cars called Planes, which will probably be just as bad as most of the straight-to-video sequels), it announced a completely different take on the trend of films they had been releasing since 1994’s Return of Jafar: a series of films based off of Tinker Bell.

Now many people would ask: how do you make a series of films based off of a character who doesn’t even speak? The answer is simple, make it all about fairies and not include Peter Pan whatsoever (a decision that personally cut me to the core, but that’s neither here nor there) and in turn, create a completely brand new line of merchandising akin to the Princess line that would act off of Tinker Bell’s already suprisingly devoted fanbase.

Just as an aside, Tinker Bell is one of the oddest characters in the Disney canon. People love Tinker Bell in that she is one of Disney’s mascots and is always present in firework shows, and has been used in the introductions for shows like Disneyland, so her appearance is one that is highly saturated and ripe for people loving her without actually knowing anything about her besides the fact that she is a fairy and is magic. That being said, her actual character in Peter Pan is one that is really either loved or hated. People who like her, adore her for her “sassiness” because of how she jealously treats Wendy; people who hate her think she is just mean and cruel for the same reason that the other crowd loves her. I wanted to like Tinker Bell mostly due to the fact that I love her character design, and Marc Davis’ animation on her is amazing, but I was unfortunately in the latter camp despite my knowledge of her character and why she was acting the way she did.

Luckily, the first Tinker Bell movie allowed me to actually like her character for the first time in my life.

The film opens on the “birth” of Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman, Katara from Avatar: the Last Airbender, Roxy Richter from Scott Pilgrim VS the World, and Ann Veal in Arrested Development) from the first laugh of a newborn baby and we find out that all of the fairies in the world live in a location within Neverland called Pixie Hollow and that they each are magically assigned to a job when they are born. They can be a garden fairy, a water fairy, light fairy, animal fairy, and others. Tinker Bell is a tinker fairy, a fairy who fixes and creates items and tools for the other fairies, but is not quite in love with her job. Her new friends Rosetta (Kristin Chenoweth), Iridessa (Raven-Symone), Fawn (America Ferrera) and Silvermist (Lucy Liu) try to teach Tinker Bell about their jobs to see if she has the talent to do them, and of course, she fails on a spectacular fashion. The fairies are all preparing for the changing of the seasons from winter to spring, as they change the seasons on Earth, and in a spectacular Disney fashion, Tinker Bell ends up ruining the preparations, but learns that she has the power to create and tries to save it.

Tinker Bell is a much more likable character in this film than she is in Peter Pan. She’s sweet, curious, and determined to figure out her role in the world, but she does have that jealous and angry streak that was present in Peter Pan, it’s just not a constant thing like it was in that film.

One of the things I noticed about the film were that there are a few similarities that can be derived between this film and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that I could not help but notice. Both feature characters trying to figure out their role in life (Tinker Bell and the Cutie Mark Crusaders), both feature the changing of seasons actually being caused by the characters. They’re not huge, but they definitely exist.

I fully expected this movie to be bad, and not that awesome kind of bad (in other words, the Pac Man effect: when a film is so bad it goes all the way around to being good), the really, really, genuinely awful kind of bad. A year or two after the film was released in 2008, I spent some time over at my neighbor’s house with their young children who were watching Tinker Bell and I was genuinely surprised that it was not only watchable, but that I wanted to actually watch it in it’s entirety. It’s not a remarkably good movie, but it is very entertaining to watch. The animation is good, not great, but good. The characters are well designed, but a lot of the faces look very similar and move in kind of a weird way. The music is nothing special, but it’s passable and it doesn’t intrude on the film.

If you’re a Tinker Bell fan, you’ve probably already seen this film, but if you aren’t a fan of the fairy you should still see it. It’s a pretty good film that above all else, entertains. I’m definitely interested in seeing the other Disney Fairy films and will probably get to those sometime in the next few weeks.

Blu-Ray Review: Cars Director’s Edition

The Cars films are ones that are highly debated as to their quality (or lack thereof) by both Disney fans and the general theatre going public. They are definitely loved by little boys (and mostly by little boys) and it is usually seen by people as Disney’s boy response to the wildly successful Princess line (considering that Pirates never really caught on in that regard, much to my chagrin). The films do not have a wide adult fan base, which makes the fact that this set even got made is rather surprising.

The set just oozes style and class from the outside with it’s metallic red paint job (it’s actually Lightning McQueen’s paint colour) and it’s exceptionally minimalist box design. On two sides, there is the Cars logo, John Lasseter’s signature, and the phrase “Director’s Edition”. On the other two sides there are the logos for the movies and short collection contained within (Cars, Cars 2, and Cars Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales). If someone were to not know what the Cars movies were, the only indication as to what they were getting into would be the clear plastic box on the top of the set containing a John Lassetire die-cast figurine. The set looks awesome when put on a shelf between other DVD’s and Blu-Rays and helps to class up what could just be standard cases lined up next to each other. That being said, the box is rather big, it’s about the size of 11 DVD or Blu-Ray cases and is taller than your standard DVD case, so if you use a shelf made just for DVD’s, it’s going to need to sit somewhere else (I just sit it on top of the shelf with my other oversized or oddly shaped sets).
The Director’s Edition opens in a rather bizarre fashion. You actually have to lift off the entire red box (it ends up just being a giant slip cover) to reveal, for lack of a better phrase, a multi-tiered steel looking tower with the John Lassetire sitting on top of it. This tower does not look nearly as good as the slip cover, but it’s still a good looking box. The major problem with the set comes when you take off the top part of the tower. When you take it off, you are hit with a cheap looking checker-board flag, which seems to exist only to hide the cheapness of the disc packaging. The 11 discs in the set are covered by a cheap piece of plastic packaging that doesn’t even lock into place, which arises the question: why is it there? The inclusion of the plastic piece is weird, but what is infuriating is the fact that all of the discs are shoved into a piece of foam. No cases, no sleeves, just foam. For a set that has an MSRP of $119, this is completely unacceptable. I understand that Blu-Ray discs are able to take a higher threshold of scratches before they become unreadable due to the smaller size and the strength of the blue laser, but scratches are still scratches, and the foam will provide less protection than your standard DVD or Blu-Ray case. I’m really thinking about going out and getting either some jewel cases that fit in the box or just getting some cheap paper sleeves in order to keep the discs safe from harm.

The packaging of this set is really upsetting to me. I love the casing, but the way that the discs are held just kills the whole thing for me. I’m glad that I got the set for only $50 through a combined use of a $10 off coupon and a deal from Best Buy that got me an additional $10 off of the $70 price tag at the store. While the packaging leaves quite a bit to be desired, the discs themselves are pretty spectacular. The 11 discs are broken down between 5 discs for Cars 2 (2D and 3D Blu-Ray with a separate special features disc, DVD version of the film, and a digital copy) and Cars and the Cars Toons have 3 discs each (DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital copy). The special features for Cars are slim and are just the special features from the original release back in 2006 and I can’t speak for any special features on the Cars Toon set as I just haven’t watched it yet. The special features for Cars 2 are many and plentiful. Along with the normal making-of featurettes, there is a featurette on a car show that Pixar puts on every year, a short on Cars Land that ends up just being a giant commercial for the upcoming land, and even a version of the races from the film that are just the races and none of the story elements that breaks them up within the film.

Recommending this set is rather difficult, as it’s a great set from a looks perspective and the fact that you get a lot of content for your money, but the packaging really holds me back from saying that you should just go out and buy the set. If you can get it for cheap (like I did) and wouldn’t mind getting some cheap jewel cases or some disc sleeves or you don’t have at least 2 of the movies, then definitely go for it. Otherwise, stay away from this set.

Cinematic Adventures: Beauty and the Beast 3D

After the advent of home video, the idea of the theatrical rerelease was one that seemed like it was going to go the way of the dodo, and for a number of years, it definitely was. Until the phoenix-like rebirth of the 3D movie, it was something that both did not seem like it would return nor did it seem like there would even be a point. That being said, one can always expect that Disney will be able to find a way to make money off a concept that almost no one else would expect to work (well, at least at first). The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D when it was originally released in 2006, it raked in an extremely surprising amount of money and Disney continued using the 3D medium to get massive amounts of money (they have had 3 3D movies (Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) in the past 2 years that made over a billion dollars worldwide each) and they do not seem to want to give up on the money-making venture that is 3D, with most of their big films being released in both 2D and 3D, but also with brand new 3D conversions of older films that people already know and love. It may sound like I’m bashing the idea of 3D movies (I’m really not as I quite enjoy 3D), I’m more just making a point.

All of that being said, and while I know that 3D is one of the greatest money making schemes in entertainment today, if Disney keeps releasing 3D conversions like the Lion King (which I already talked about) and the new (but not really) conversion of Beauty and the Beast, they will continue to get my money. I’m obviously not going to be reviewing the film here (because that can be found here), but I do feel like there are things to talk about with this conversion.

The actual conversion itself is rather spectacular, but not as good as the one for the Lion King. The 3D is rather good, and it feels very different from the Lion King due to it sometimes looking like a moving storybook (especially in the very beginning and the tracking shot through the forest). Each layer in that scene feels very separate from each other and some people may not like that, but the rest of the film looks really good, and in a lot of scenes, actually makes the film look better. One problem that a lot of 3D films face is that the glasses make the picture look darker, but it’s not quite the case with the 3D conversion of Beauty and the Beast, the colours really pop on the big screen and besides the fact that the version in theatres looks almost like it’s standard definition, it still looks rather gorgeous. The times that the 3D looks the best, though, are when there is rain and snow present, as they take up the very front layer of the film and it makes you feel much more involved in the story unfolding in front of you.

The 3D version of Beauty and the Beast was actually supposed to come out on Valentines Day of 2010 (which made me actually look forward to that day for the first time in a number of years), but the release was inexplicably dropped, despite the fact that the conversion was already complete. Valentines Day 2010 came and went without an enchanted castle and it was announced that it would come out the following Valentines Day. That ended up being false again and Disney never spoke of it again. Beauty and the Beast got a double-dip Blu-Ray release when the Diamond Edition Blu-Ray was brought out again, but with a new disc that included the 3D version of the film and a digital-copy on October 4th, 2011 along with the new Diamond Edition of the Lion King. After that, it did not seem that we would ever see Beauty and the Beast in theatres again, until the Lion King was rereleased in 3D and raked in money hand over fist in the box office. It was announced that it would be coming out along with Finding Nemo 3D in September 2012, Monsters, Inc. 3D in January 2013, and the Little Mermaid 3D in September 2013.

I’m still holding out for Aladdin 3D in 2014, but we will have to wait and see if that comes to pass.

The real reason that Beauty and the Beast 3D is noteworthy is the existence of Tangled Ever After, a new short that premiered before the film. The story is, obviously, a sequel to Tangled where Rapunzel and Flynn tie the not, but not without Pascal and Maximus losing the rings and are forced to run all around the kingdom trying to get them back before it’s time to declare them man and wife. The cast from the movie returns, as does the vast majority of the cast of characters, for the genuinely hilarious short, but something I am concerned about is how the short is going to be released to the public. The 3D version of Beauty and the Beast is already out and it does not have Tangled Ever After on it, and the short is only around 6 minutes long, so it wouldn’t get it’s own release.

I would highly suggest going to see Beauty and the Beast 3D even if you don’t like 3D movies. Being able to see Beauty and the Beast on the big screen is a real treat that should not be missed, and Tangled Ever After is really just the icing on the cake.

The Lost Boy Goes to the Theatre: The Lion King

Last night, I saw the Lion King on Broadway for the third time, and oh my sweet Christmas it is an amazing show.

The show follows the plot to the movie very strongly, but it’s more like a director’s cut version of the film. Just about everything you remember from the movie is in the show, but with numerous scenes either being expanded or new scenes being added that were only eluded to in the film, such as Nala leaving the Pride Land and her reason to do so. There are even completely brand new scenes such as Zazu talking to Mufasa about parenting and Timon almost drowning from a trip over a waterfall when Simba freezes up due to the similarity to the traumatic event when Mufasa died.

The costumes in the show are absolutely amazing to look at. Most of the animals are elaborate puppets, but are much more representative of their animal than they are literal. With each animal, you can still see the person operating them, but it does not detract from the experience at all. For instance, the Giraffes are people wearing stilts on both arms and both legs and the neck and head of the giraffe being a very large hat. A Cheetah is a puppet that the puppeteer wears around his/her waist where the back legs are operated by the puppeteers legs, the front legs are operated by long poles, and the head is attached by a rope to the puppeteer’s head. The design of the puppets is made to look significantly tribal in nature, with many of them featuring tribal designs in the fabrics, or some of them, like the massive elephant puppet, looking like they are made out of thatching. The lions themselves are much more representative than any of the other characters, they look the most like people out of any of the characters, with really the only visible lion traits being a tail (which really only Scar has) or headdresses, which in the case of Mufasa and Scar, lunge forward when the actor bends over, simulating more cat-like movements.

Timon, Pumbaa, and Zazu are my favourite puppets in the show. Timon is operated by a man dressed in all green clothing and the puppet covers a large part of his body. The actor’s feet operate Timon’s feet, his arms can operate each of Timon’s arms, and his hand operates the mouth of the puppet. Pumbaa’s puppeteer operates the mouth and tongue of the full body puppet, which allows for some very funny physical gags related to Pumbaa catching things in his extra large mouth, or slapping Timon with his tongue. Zazu is the one character in the show that looks the most different from everyone else. The costume designers took the idea that he is British and ran with it. Zazu wears a bowler hat, a blue tailcoat that looks like feathers, some bright orange dress shoes, and carries a white Zazu puppet.

The scenery is exceptionally minimal, with a large amount of the scenery actually being cast members dressed as plants. There are a few set pieces, such as Pride Rock and the Elephant Graveyard that can be moved around the stage to fill different roles and perspectives as needed.

The music combines music from the film with completely new music and songs. The show does not have the standard orchestra pit that other Broadway shows has, but rather goes for a much more tribal sound with plenty of drums of different sizes and sounds along with various kinds of flutes and xylophones. The new songs are fantastic and a number of them are based off of the score from the film or from the album Rhythm of the Pride Lands. “He Lives in You” (which found it’s way into the Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride for some odd reason), “Shadowland” (known as “Lea Halelela” on Rhythm of the Pride Lands, but added English lyrics to the Broadway version), and “One by One” are all from Rhythm of the Pride Land and they flow perfectly into the pacing of the show. “He Lives in You” is an amazing song that really encapsulates the message of the story in a perfect and exceptionally catchy manner and “Shadowland” gives Nala some much needed stagetime and shows just how strong of a character she is in the show.

“The Morning Report” (which as of June of 2010 has been cut from the show, for some odd reason) is one of my favourite new songs and was added to the film when it was rereleased to IMAX and subsequently removed from the film when it was rereleased in 3D (which leads me to believe that Disney is now having an anti-“Morning Report” stance, which is surprising considering their apparent love of puns). A few songs were added to the show like “Grassland’s Chant” and “Lioness’ Hunt” that really don’t serve any purpose to the story, but provide transitions to the story. “The Madness of King Scar” is a wonderful new song that really shows that Scar is not fit for ruling and adds a bit of comic relief to the otherwise slimy character while also setting up the motivation for Nala leaving the Pride Lands. The best new song in the show, and what I consider to be the best song in the show, is “Endless Night”. The song really shows just how confused Simba is as to his life as he struggles with his past and what he was taught as a child. It is a beautiful and haunting song that helps to turn his life around in the story.

The show manages to seamlessly blend old and new with a distinctive artistic style that is equal parts Lebo M (one of the composers of the new music) and Julie Taymor (the director of the show and director of Across the Universe and the ill-fated Spider-Man musical). If you have the means to, definitely go see this show. Even if you know the movie backwards and forwards, there is still more than enough in this show to keep you immensely entertained, and as I saw last night, it even keeps children entertained and quiet throughout.

Happy 110th Birthday, Walt Disney!

“Over at our place, we’re sure of just one thing: everybody in the world was once a child. So in planning a new picture, we don’t think of grown-ups, and we don’t think of children, but just of that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us that maybe the world has made us forget and that maybe our pictures can help recall.”

Walt Disney is 110 years young today, be sure to celebrate by watching Disney movies and shorts pre-1966 today.

Regular posts will be starting up again on Wednesday.

Muppet Mayhem (Part 9): The Muppets

After 10 years of being out of the spotlight, the Muppets have finally returned to the forefront of entertainment. The film was a long time in the making, with talks starting between the writing team of Jason Segel and Nick Stoller and Disney in 2008 when the movie was tentatively called The Greatest Muppet Movie of all Time!! Disney was hesitant about making it due due to Segel’s whole full-frontal nudity thing and the raunchy comedy of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but they finally decided on making it due to the heart found in the movie and that was found in the early drafts of the screenplay for the film that became the Muppets. Jason Segel wanted the film to be closer in tone and style to the first three Muppet movies (the Muppet Movie, Great Muppet Caper, and Muppets Take Manhattan) and he definitely succeeded, but ended up going a step farther.

Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter live in a small town called Smalltown (go figure) and Walter has always felt different from everyone else. Walter and Gary always watched the Muppet Show growing up and Walter, being a Muppet himself, always felt exceptionally close to the characters he was seeing on TV, much to the ridicule of others. When Gary and Mary (Amy Adams) decide to go to Los Angeles for their 10th anniversary of dating each other, Gary decides to take Walter along so he can see the Muppet Studio like he’s always dreamed of, much to Mary’s dislike. When they get there, they find that the Muppet Studio has been in a state of disrepair for years and it’s only being used for lack-luster tours. Walter runs off from the tour and enters Kermit’s old office, but stumbles upon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) and his minions, Bobo the Bear and Uncle Deadly, plotting to buy the Muppet Studio, raze it, and drill for oil.

The three decide to seek out Kermit the Frog and get his help to save the studio. Kermit decides that the only way to get the amount of money needed to save it is to find all of the Muppets and put on a telethon. They travel all over the country, stopping in Reno where Fozzie is doing a Muppet tribute show, getting Gonzo away from his immensely powerful plumbing company, Animal was in a anger management center with Jack Black as his sponsor, and the rest return through a montage, except for Ms. Piggy who is working in Paris as the editor for Vogue. The newly reformed Muppets, with the help of Gary, Mary, and Walter, rebuild the Muppet Theatre and get it ready to put on a show that TV producer Veronica Martin (Rashida Jones) agrees to put on TV if they can get a celebrity host, as the Muppets are no longer celebrities. They have to find a host and put on the best show they can in order to save the studio.

The film is all about the fact that the Muppets are no longer celebrities, and that fact is one of the reasons that the film works so well. The Muppets have not had a theatrical film since 1999’s Muppets in Space, and not have had a theatrically successful one since 1996’s Muppet Treasure Island. They have had a few TV specials here-and-there in the interim, but nothing that really set the world on fire. In fact, a number of the people that I went to see the movie with had not seen a Muppet movie before, and they are all around my age or older, so the fact that the Muppets are trying to regain their popularity is so prescient.

Like Winnie the Pooh, the Muppets is perfect because of it’s very heavy similarities to previous parts of the Muppet franchise, but unlike how Winnie the Pooh is almost exactly like the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Muppets is much closer to to the Muppet Show than it is to any of the other films. Actually, the Muppets is very much the closest things to a theatrical version of the Muppet Show than any of the other versions have ever been. The Muppet Telethon literally is a theatrical version of the show, with acts that could have been on the Muppet Show occurring on the stage at the Muppet Theatre (which is actually the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, just made over to look like the sets used in London for the filming of the Muppet Show in the late 70’s and early 80’s.) Unfortunately, one of my few problems with the film is that they did not just make some of the Muppet Show skits into segments of the telethon. I would have loved to see “Pigs in Space” again, or a “Muppet News Flash” (the anchorman does make an appearance, though), or visit the Muppet Labs, or see my personal favourite Muppet, the Swedish Chef, whip up something in the kitchen. It was wonderful to see Link Hogthrob and Dr. Julius Strangepork walking around in the background, though. Some Muppets were conspicuously missing from the movie though, such as Bean Bunny and Robin the Frog (who can be seen in the background, but I’m surprised that he wasn’t involved in the story at all).

The other reason that this film works so well is that the Muppets is a genuinely hilarious movie. There are so many laugh out loud segments that just sound so right coming out of their mouth that anyone who is familiar with the characters would feel right at home with this film and those who are not will be able to grasp their character perfectly. The film also has many references to previous Muppet properties that only fans would really get, but they are still funny for those who are not well in tune to the Muppet franchise. The Muppets is easily the funniest movie I have seen all year, and there doesn’t seem to be any films coming out by the end of the year that would knock it out of it’s position.

Like the first Muppet movie, the movie is full of cameos, but unlike the Muppet Movie, there are multiple cameos in every scene. A partial list includes Neal Patrick Harris, Donald Glover, Jim Parsons, Selena Gomez, Whoopi Goldberg, Alan Arkin, Dave Grohl, Mickey Rooney, Kristen Schaal, Zach Galifinakis, and Sarah Silverman. Some of the cameos don’t even have lines within the film, with them literally just showing up and doing something in the background, such as answering phones during the telethon.

The songs were written by Bret McKenzie, one half of the 4th most popular folk band in New Zealand, the Flight of the Conchords, and the songs are absolutely wonderful. Jason Segel in an interview said that the choice of getting McKenzie to do the songs was a perfect one due to the inherent Muppet-ness of Flight of the Conchords’ music in general, so there was very little changes that needed to be made to his style to make it mesh with the Muppet franchise. None of the songs are bad in the film, but the real standout is the theme for the film, “Life’s a Happy Song”, which has been stuck in my head for over a week now. “Me Party” is a very amusing song, but the segment within the film is rather bizarre. “Let’s Talk About Me” is another weird song, but it sounds very much like a Flight of the Conchords song (I think it sounds most like “Hiphopopotamus VS Rhymenoscerous”). The other great song is the ballad between Gary and Walter “Man or Muppet?” and manages to be very emotional and deep despite the very funny nature of what happens on screen during the scene where it occurs. The film even has new versions of three classic Muppet songs (“The Muppet Show Theme, “Mahna Mahna”, and “Rainbow Connection”), the last of which left me tearing up from sheer joy.

The film even uses some classic rock to help set the mood in places. “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” is used at the beginning of the film to set the time period and “We Built This City” is used durin

 

g the rebuilding of the Muppet Theatre in a rather hilarious manner. There are also two Muppet-ized versions of songs within the Muppet Telethon: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, except done via a barbershop quartet featuring Sam the Eagle (“another dirty word”), Link Hogthrob, Rowlf the Dog, and Beaker and “Forget You”, which should actually be called “Cluck You” considering the fact that it’s “sung” by Camilla and four other chickens. The versions in the movie are much shorter, but the full versions can be found on the soundtrack to the film and you should definitely check out the full version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as it’s absolutely hilarious.

If it sounds like I am showering nothing but praise on the film, that’s because there is nothing but praise to give. This film is one of the best films of the year and the best Muppet film since the Muppet Movie (I would actually say that it is better than the Muppet Movie, but there will be some people out there that disagree with me). See this movie, love this movie, and hope that this movie gets more Muppet properties like it to be made. (Hey Disney, get on making a new Muppet Show!)