Mini-Reviews: The Muppets and The Descendants

I’m back after the hiatus with a double-mini review on the latest Muppets movie to hit theaters and the latest of George Clooney in The Descendants.

First, let’s start with The Muppets.

OK, let me just say that Jason Segel is a little bit of a genius. The fun, quirky songs, the back story of how all the Muppets are now spread out, the villain (played by Chris Cooper) who’s constantly demanding a maniacal laugh from his evil cohorts–The Muppets contained enough charisma to charm nostalgic viewers (consisting mainly of adults who grew up watching them), as well as kids looking for new friends and heroes. Amy Adams played a great supporting role as Mary, Gary’s girlfriend of 10 years who’s helpful and supportive, but questioning of Gary’s humanity/muppiticity. Her performance in Enchanted would only confirm with the studio that she was the perfect fit for her role. Segel, already a bit of a dork himself, fit right in with the Muppets and his brother, Walter, who is the biggest Muppets fan ever.

Without a doubt, The Muppets is the family-friendly, feel-good film of the year. Receiving great critiques across the board (just check out Rotten Tomatoes’s high rating for it), and including some hilarious and well-placed cameos by various celebrities, the movie has you wanting to dance and sing along by the end.

The Descendants is on the other end of the spectrum. Painfully honest, with twists and turns that emotionally injure Matt King (George Clooney), the “back-up parent” and businessman first, who’s dealing with multiple issues vying for and demanding his attention. Clooney again knocks it out of the park with a great performance that’s likely to spark chatter at the Academy this year. If there had to be a stand-out performance for the movie, however, it would have to go to Shailene Woodley, who played Matt’s daughter, Alex. Alex, who has just been unexpectedly plucked from her rehab clinic by her father and younger sister, Scottie (Amara Miller), no sooner than later breaks the news to her dad that her mother, Elizabeth, has been cheating on him. But she doesn’t learn this revelation until her dad informs her while she is swimming in their leaf-filled pool that Elizabeth will not be waking up from her coma. Thus, Matt, his two daughters, and Alex’s odd-ball friend, Sid (Nick Krause), embark on a trip informing Elizabeth’s parents the news. As Matt and Alex learn more of Elizabeth’s affair, Matt starts to come to terms with what what to do with the land he has inherited, how he must deal with being a single parent, and having to break the news of Elizabeth’s impending death to Scottie, who’s too young to realize the seriousness of her mother’s condition.

The Descendants is kind of like a really pretty picture from first glance at a distance. And then when you walk closer to it and start looking at it more clearly, you notice the different smudges and the imperfections and perhaps the pain that the artist was inflicted with while creating the piece. It’s about a real family dealing with real issues, and what you see is not pretty, but it’s close to a realistic view of what it actually is. The writing and performances were top-notch, and it’ll be no surprise if it gets nominated for a few Oscars in February.

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5 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: The Muppets and The Descendants

  1. Longtime Muppet fans will undoubtedly have more fun than young ones, but for the most part, it’s a witty, delightful romp, that shows you that you can still be funny, without ever being mean still in 2011. Good review.

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  2. That’s such a great point! A lot of humor today has not only sarcastic undertones, but much of it is inherently mean. The Muppets does humor well. Thanks for pointing that out, Dan!

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  3. Loved the Muppets. It’s a breath of fresh air to get such a joyful and positive film. The human protagonists were a bit extraneous but still a great flick!

    Still have to see The Descendants but heard great things about it.

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  4. Haha, to be honest, I was actually surprised that the humans weren’t “more out there.” You see that often in mixed animated/human films, but I thought there was a nice balance in this one. I especially loved the times when Segel would refer back to “well, I just sung a whole song about that.” It really made it funny and did a nice job of self-deprecating itself without asking for pity.

    I’d definitely recommend it–one of the best films (so far!) of the year, if you ask me 🙂

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