I must confess that I’m a little disappointed in this one. Having heard such great things about it for so long, I was hoping for a very exciting comedy, but instead got a strangely-paced artsy musical. I enjoy musicals a lot, so I had a good time during the musical sequences, but the rest of the film felt kind of pointless. The story may not actually be as weak as it felt to me personally – it might just not be my kind of story – but something about the pace of the thing is certainly off, and there’s something else missing that kept the story from being interesting. Unfortunately, I can’t put my finger on what that missing element is.
I know I like the actors’ performances, and the characters were fine. The music was good, but the humor was lacking. I’m okay with a movie that’s lacking in humor, so long as it has good drama, like in The Graduate. I really love a great soundtrack, which is what makes it difficult for me to be as hard on this film as I think I ought. What my problem boils down to is the fact that I don’t believe a film should be considered great purely on the grounds of its visuals or music if the story is weak. (I even go so far as to argue with the saying that “film is a visual medium” – I say it’s a storytelling medium, and if the particular story being told requires the audio to lead and the visuals to follow, so be it.) So, am I willing to own up to my claims and condemn the film of mediocrity in spite of its soundtrack?
Well, the music isn’t the only thing I like about it. There’s a really neat atmosphere that I think is unique to the film, and Landis adds a special vibe somehow that creates a very “bluesy” feeling. Landis also shows off his Muppet fandom with a part played by Frank Oz, and a heck of a lot of Muppet merch in one scene, which I just adore. There is ample cleverness throughout in both the circumstances that arise and the way they’re handled, but I still get too much of a Pee Wee’s Big Adventure feeling from the writing. The fun cameos by great performers reminded me very much of my favorite movie, The Muppet Movie, which made this movie even more fascinating. The film really impressed me with its visuals, as I think it’s a very, very well-shot film, so I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in cinematography.
Yes, there is a lot to like about it, but it somehow just didn’t quite grab me. (This may have something to do with the fact that, from what I’ve read, Aykroyd had written an unconventional, dysfunctional script that had to be reworked by Landis.) In the end, it was a movie I felt like I could just stop watching midway without missing much. Finishing it felt like a chore. That’s not a good sign. So, in spite of all its strengths, I can’t give this the high rating other critics/historians do because it fails at simply holding my attention.