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Film / The Muppets (2011)

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Statler: I always dreamed we'd be back here.
Waldorf: Dreams? Those were nightmares!
Both: Do-ho-ho-ho!

The Muppets is a 2011 feature-length film from Disney, and the first theatrical film to feature the eponymous characters since 1999's Muppets from Space. Unlike the 1990s and 2000s films, though, this film sets out to reinvigorate interest in the Muppet brand and characters, and return them a bit to their original variety-show days. It is written and executive produced by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, and directed by James Bobin of Flight of the Conchords fame, with fellow Conchords alumnus Bret McKenzie in charge of the music. It is the first Muppet film not to feature Jerry Nelsonnote , and the first theatrical Muppet film not to feature Frank Oz. It won an Oscar for Best Song ("Man Or Muppet"), making it the first Muppet film to win any Oscar.

The plot involves Walter (Peter Linz), the world's biggest Muppet fan, his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary's girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, going on a vacation to Los Angeles. There the trio discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theatre and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets' former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10-million needed to save the theatre, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit the Frog reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue in Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. Celebrity cameos and fourth-wall-breaking ensue. ...and dancing chickens... and Jack Black.

The first trailer can be seen here. Be aware that it deliberately misleads you into thinking it's a romantic comedy. It becomes blatantly obvious by the end. There's also the extensive Muppet Wiki page, which gives you a good idea of what you're in for.

Followed up by Muppets Most Wanted.

Not to be confused with The Muppet Movie or the ABC show The Muppets (2015).

The Muppets includes the following tropes:

  • Acting Unnatural:
    Jack Black: Oh hey, Animal. What are you doing here?
    Animal: Acting! (three second pause) Natural!
  • Action Figure Speech: As in The Muppet Show, the Mutations' mouths never move. Even during "The Rainbow Connection", one only bobs his head while the other Muppets are visibly singing.
  • An Aesop: This movie has the overall message that edgy humor is overrated and that optimism isn't stupid. The villains are depicted as being literally unable to smile and do everything they can to sabotage the Muppets show, while Gary and Walter both manage to help save their childhood icons with little more than a can-do attitude.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: In this movie, it's implied that Animal's wild behavior is directly linked to his drumming. "Drums" is actually a trigger word for him, and at one point he has a Good Angel, Bad Angel moment, where they just yell at each other, "Drum!" "Not drum!" The Bad Angel is the one who wants him to play.
  • All Is Well That Ends Well: No one gets into trouble for kidnapping Jack Black.
  • All Part of the Show: Piggy has the Muppets kidnap Jack Black to be their celebrity host. He spends the entire telethon tied to a chair complaining about how they made him fancy, the jokes are bad, and he really is not doing this willingly. The audience laughs, thinking it's a Running Gag. It works to Fozzie's advantage in particular, since his jokes are actually bad, and they think Jack balances them out with his complaints.
  • All-Star Cast: Both in-universe and out-of-universe, and heavily lampshaded.
  • All There in the Manual: The Muppets' Junior Novelization explains several unexplained aspects of the movie story, including why Tex Richman is unable to laugh, why the Muppets broke up, why Kermit and Piggy split apart, why Tex Richman hates the Muppets, why they didn't just ask rich plumbing magnate Gonzo for the money, and why the last bit of story was relegated to the end credits.
  • Always Close: When the telethon ended, the fundraiser tracker showed that the Muppets were just one dollar away from their ten million dollar goal when the phone lines were cut! But this becomes a Subverted Trope when accidental Percussive Maintenance by Fozzie shows the readout Misplaced a Decimal Point. They were actually one cent away from one percent of the money they needed. Fozzie notes that this makes him feel better somehow.
  • Amusing Injuries: It's the Muppets. Comes with the territory. The first one is Walter earning his Yoga merit badge by tying his own limbs in the same knots Gary tied in ropes for his knot-tying merit badge. Doubles as Human Knot.
  • Art Evolution:
    • It's subtle, but the filmmakers are benefiting from a larger budget and rebuilt most of the puppets.
    • The puppets all look cleaner and more polished than they did in The Muppet Movie, since the first movie was made on a smaller budget, and this is Disney we're talking about.
    • For the first time in a Muppet movie, the rods attached to their arms that the puppeteers use to control them are digitally removed. Doesn't distract you in the slightest.
  • As Himself:
    • Jack Black, plus a handful of celebrity cameos. The cameos were from (in alphabetical order) James Carville, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch and John Krasinski.
    • As always, a Running Gag in all Muppet promotional material ever, the Muppets claim they are actually acting and not being themselves, but characters who are named exactly like them and had their exact same personality.
      Walter: In the movie, I get to play this huge Muppet fan and, in real life, I'M A HUGE MUPPET FAN!
      Uncle Deadly: The character I play is called Uncle Deadly, which is also my name. It's like it was written for me!
    • Interviewers always tend to get confused about this. They ask the Muppets questions about how they felt when such-and-such happens, and the Muppets will respond "Well, my character felt..." Even though the Muppets have been very clear that they are actors, not their characters, for years, interviewers still don't seem to grasp it.
  • Ascended Extra: More obscure Muppets are back in bigger roles, such as Uncle Deadly as Tex Richman's right hand man, Camilla's singing number of Fu... er, Forget Younote , and Lew Zealand having an important role in the kidnapping of Jack Black. And who expected Thog to make an appearance?
  • Ascended Fanboy: Walter dreams about getting to join the Muppets, and finally gets his chance when Kermit asks him to do a skit for the telethon. After the telethon, Kermit invites Walter to join their act permanently, which he does, after checking with his brother Gary.
  • Aside Glance: Mary smiling (kinda flirtatiously) at the camera throughout "Me Party".
  • Audible Gleam: When Piggy looks over the fallen Muppet Man and sees Kermit for the first time in years, there is a visible and audible sparkle in her eye. Just like in The Muppet Movie, when she sees Kermit for the first time.
  • Audience Surrogate: As Tough Pigs put it, "(...)Walter is us. I related with his character so much, I practically expected him to say that he runs his own website for Muppet Fans Who Grew Up.". In an interview, Walter would mention that he is a regular visitor to that website.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Man or Muppet", in a literal sense too (it was nominated for quite a few awards and actually ended up winning an Oscar in 2012).
  • Badbutt: The Moopets. They don't appear swearing, drinking or taking drugs, unlike many real-life humans in similar positions, though they are considerably ruder, uglier, and trashier than the Muppets.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The Muppets fail to raise the money to fulfill the 'Standard Rich and Famous Contract', which means Tex Richman's purchase of the Muppet Studio goes through, and he can do whatever he wants with it and the oil under the theatre. Yet he undergoes Heel–Face Turn shortly after. "Change of heart -- nothing to do with head injury."
  • Bad to the Bone: Both the trope naming song ("Bad to the Bone") and "Back in Black" are used for this purpose.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Walter, Mary, and Gary are looking for Kermit, Walter says to pull over where we see a man selling "maps of the stars"... to get some chili dogs from the guy next to him.
  • Barbershop Quartets Are Funny: One of the skits the Muppets do for their telethon is a barbershop quartet, including Beaker who hums his "meeps". The song they perform is a barbershop version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Inexplicably it ends with them shrinking Jack Black's head with a hot towel.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Averted with Bobo, who's just really Genre Blind.
  • Beautiful Singing Voice: In Walter's case, it's his beautiful whistling talent that causes the house to fall silent during his act, and then erupt with applause afterward.
  • Berserk Button: Mentioning anything related to drums works both Animal and Jack Black into a frenzy. Jack Black also hates the word Tuesday.
  • Big Budget Beef-Up: You can't exactly tell, but the filmmakers are benefiting from a larger budget and rebuilt most of the puppets. For example, Gonzo now can raise each eye individually, which is rather in character for him.
  • Big Finale Crowd Song: The film ends with a big Triumphant Reprise of "Life's a Happy Song" featuring a large crowd of New York citizens dancing and singing along with the Muppets, as they begin their new era together.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Muppets completely fail to buy back the studio, but are back in the public eye and decide that the studio wasn't that important — what is important is making people laugh. Played for laughs shortly after, in which Tex gets a concussion and decides to give them back their studio. Absolutely NOT related to the concussion.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Miss Piggy tells Kermit that Jack Black "graciously agreed" to host the telethon, and Fozzie attempts to rationalize the situation as "briefly inconveniencing" Jack:
    Kermit: What? You kidnapped Jack Black? That's illegal!
    Fozzie: But Kermit, what's more illegal: briefly inconveniencing Jack Black, or destroying the Muppets?
    Kermit: Kidnapping Jack Black, Fozzie!
  • Bland-Name Product: The Moopets.
    • The CDE network is one for Disney, the owners of ABC, which would air the sitcom in the 2015-2016 season.
  • Body of Bodies: The Muppets get together underneath some huge clothes to make "Muppet Man."
  • Book Ends: The movie starts and ends with the same song.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Some of the Muppets appear to be completely unfamiliar with trends and styles in The New '10s.
    • Kermit, who uses the same card carousel he used in 1981 to find a guest star for the telethon, thinks Jimmy Carter is still the President, and keeps '80s Robot as a butler.
    • Dr. Teeth, who plays We Built This City as the song for the cleaning montage!
    • '80s Robot himself. He uses extremely loud and annoying dial-up modems, uses outdated lingo like "Gag me with a spoon" and "Grody to the max," and thinks that people still like Tab and New Coke.
  • Brick Joke:
    • "Travel by map."
    • Gonzo's act in the telethon, also a sort of Chekhov's Gun.
  • Broad Strokes: The only things from the Muppets' pastnote  that we know for sure happened are The Muppet Show and the events of The Muppet Movie. This continues a long tradition of each current Muppet production picking and choosing which previous productions count. Justified, the Muppets have gone on press stating this is only a movie and they're all just playing themselves.
    • Muppet Babies (1984) aired (there are a few pieces of memorabilia from that show in Gary and Walter's house), but that could simply be an animated show in-universe rather than events that happened to the characters (what didn't have an Animated Adaptation in the 80's?).
    • Elements of The Muppets Take Manhattan are referenced, including Kermit and Piggy's wedding photo, but in this film they were never actually married.
    • It's more clear in The Muppets' Junior Novel: After the events in The Muppets Take Manhattan, Piggy starts to act as if she and Kermit actually got married and Kermit gets mad about it. They do have a vague conversation about it in the movie while they are in Paris.
    • There are only three references to the last theatrical Muppet movie, Muppets from Space: Gonzo's "People of Earth" callback (which, in itself, is something he would say even before MFS), Bobo's role as the villain's not-exactly-evil henchman, and the fact Gary and Walter own the movie on DVD (you'd have to look really closely to realize that, though); presumably, this stems from it not being owned by Disney, but by Sony via Columbia Pictures.
  • Brutal Honesty: Comes from Veronica when she bluntly tells the Muppets that they're no longer relevant in pop culture.
    Veronica: I'm gonna shoot straight: you guys aren't famous anymore.
    Fozzie: Yeesh. I wish she'd shot a little more curvy.
  • BSoD Song: "Man or Muppet" sung by Gary and Walter as a Distant Duet, where the respective characters have a crisis of identity.
  • Buffy Speak: Tex Richman wants to call the Kermit exhibit in the Muppet Museum "The Kermit the Frog's Old Office Room". Justified, since it's all Blatant Lies.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jack Black. You know you have it bad when even Beaker gets to heap on the abuse!
  • Call-Back: Several references to previous Muppet TV shows and movies are important to the plot.
    • The original Muppet Theatre from The Muppet Show is a central location. The deed to the theatre and studio are included within the original Standard "Rich and Famous" Contract from The Muppet Movie.
    • The hole in the ceiling of the Muppet Theatre may have also been the same one from the end of The Muppet Movie that the rainbow shines through.
    • At one point, Walter, Gary and Mary are trying to motivate Kermit. They use the first three lines from The Muppet Show intro during this. The actual intro itself is played again at the start of the Show Within a Show.
    • A photo of Kermit and Piggy from the wedding scene in The Muppets Take Manhattan appears, torn in half after The Muppets broke up.
    • One contained entirely within the movie itself: When talking to Kermit, Walter mentions that the Muppets give laughter, which is the third greatest gift (after children and ice cream). The Triumphant Reprise of "Life's a Happy Song" at the end has the line "And we'll keep giving the third greatest gift: laughter!".
    • Jack Black is not the first 'special guest' to begin the show firmly tied to a chair. (The Muppet Show used the same gag for John Cleese.)
  • The Cameo: As noted on the Awesome page, stars — big stars — were lining up to appear in this movie, however fleetingly.
    • Old audio from The Muppet Show is used in order to give one to Jim Henson posthumously ("Our very special guest star, Mister Bob Hope!"). Jerry Nelson gets cameos at the same time, announcing the "Veterinary Hospital" and "Pigs in Space" sketches. The audio plays as Kermit reenters the Muppet Theatre for the first time in years and sees the main stage and the PIS set in disarray.
    • Henson also gets visual cameos: He is on one of the pictures in Kermit's office, and he is visible on one of the lamppost-held banners on Hollywood Boulevard (this poster is/was actually there in real life, as people who have stars on the Walk of Fame were being honored with lamppost banners at the time of filming.)
    • And Nelson gets one for real, doing the voiceover announcing the start of the Telethon.
    • It being the Muppets, cameos abound. Virtually anybody who has a speaking part is some big name. Lampshaded and mocked during the telethon, when Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, and many others approach to cameo on the Show Within a Show and end up running the phones. NPH lampshades his standard Special Telecast appearances: "No, I don't know why I'm not hosting this."
    • Earlier in the movie, Dave Grohl shows up as Animool, Animal's counterpart in the Moopets.
    • Michaela Conlin can be seen for a second as one of the fans outside the Muppet Theatre at the end.
    • Jim Parsons is the "Man" version of Walter in "Man or Muppet".
    • Leslie Feist apparently lives in Smalltown. Ditto for Mickey Rooney and Willie Nelson.
    • Kristen Schaal is an anger management counselor.
    • Sarah Silverman is the waitress who mockingly announces "party of one."
    • Zach Galifianakis is Hobo Joe.
    • Ricky Gervais's cameo was actually cut from the film, but he can still be seen dancing behind Jason Segel, in the street outside the Muppet Theatre, in the film's closing "Life's a Happy Song" number.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • '80s Robot, a robot that points out and makes 1980s references, looks like R.O.B. or the Tomy Omnibot 2000.
    • In-universe with the Moopets.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • Fozzie Bear: I once waited a whole year for September.
    • Bobo: So, do you think we're working for the bad guy?
  • Casting Gag:
  • Catapult Nightmare: Walter gets one about being invited to join the Muppets, and being left behind.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A music version, unusually for this trope. Jack Black is aghast at the Muppets doing a Nirvana song in a barbershop style, mentioning the band by name. Earlier in the film, Nirvana’s drummer, Dave Grohl, appeared briefly as Animool.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Animal's trigger word, D-R-U-M.
  • Character Catchphrase: The main three get theirs.
    Kermit's: "Hi-ho, Fozzie." and "YAAAAAAAAY!" and "Good grief."
    Fozzie's: "Wokka Wokka" (and echoed by the Faux Fozzie in the Moopets).
    • Scooter also gets in his from The Muppet Show's cold open — "Jack Black! 15 seconds to curtain, Mr. Black!"
  • Character Development: Tex Richman undergoes this over the end credits and finally gets the opportunity to do the one thing he was previously thought to be unable to do and that thing was laughing.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Tex Richman has some kind of internal defect that makes it impossible for him to laugh. That's why he keeps Bobo and Uncle Deadly around — so that he can have maniacal laughing on command, literally. The Head Bowling injury sustained thanks to Gonzo fixes that. He gets a head injury that is absolutely not related to his decision to give the Muppets their name and theatre back, but he also gains the ability to laugh for the first time in his life.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Jack Black. He first appears as Animal's sponsor at his anger management retreat, reinforcing him to keep away from drums. During the failed rehearsal, which failed because Animal would not play drums, the ex-drummer blurted out his name. Which is probably why Miss Piggy later decided to kidnap him to be the telethon's celebrity guest.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Mary. Her class loves her so much because her class is fun and because she teaches hands-on electrical engineering to elementary school students, which comes in handy when Richman literally axes the fuse box.
    • Walter counts too. During the clean-up montage, you can hear Walter whistle part of "We built this city on rock and roll". Come about 45 minutes later, and he's up on stage whistling his lungs out.
  • Cherubic Choir: A backlit and silhouetted Kermit walks up on Gary, Mary and Walter; the voices of angels can be heard. The latter, still shaking off the effects of having hit an electric fence looks up blearily to see his hero. It turns out that the silhouette came from the headlights of a bus containing the angelic voices — a choir who were practicing en route.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Most of the Muppets Tonight cast except for Pepe and Bobo. note  Clifford did have a cameo in the original cut, though this was more to squeeze otherwise-absent Kevin Clash in when Sesame Workshop wouldn't let him cameo as Elmo.
  • Co-Dragons: Bobo and (fittingly) Uncle Deadly are these for Tex Richman.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • A pair of TV executives are utterly confused as to why a teacher's association would sue one of their game shows, when said game show involves children punching teachers in the face.
    • Also:
    Mary: You can't drive to France, Walter.
    Gary: Yeah, it's way too far.
  • Comically Wordy Contract: The Standard "Rich and Famous" contract is long enough to cover a table when only half unrolled.
  • Company Cross References:
    • One that references Disney; on the map at the very beginning of the movie, Gary and Walter's Boy Scout camp is labeled to be in Paradise Falls.
    • During the reprise of "Life's A Happy Song", there's a poster for Cars 2 in the background (most notably during the end of the song). This is probably an unintentional example; while Cars 2 was released five months before The Muppets, the film's finale was shot in January 2011, hence the Cars 2 poster.
  • Continuity Nod: Often. It was written by die-hard Muppet fans, after all.
    • Gonzo apparently went back to being a plumber.
    • Several previously forgotten Muppets like Thog and Uncle Deadly are back!
    • An Inverted continuity nod: Bunsen and Beaker were first seen conducting a growth experiment in The Muppet Movie. Their first appearance in this movie consists of them trying a shrinking experiment.
    • "The Rainbow Connection", "The Muppet Show Theme", and "Mahna Mahna" are sung once again.
    • Bobo tries to get Uncle Deadly to sing "Together Again" with him, and Walter plays a few bars on the piano as he's trying to find his talent.
    • A collection of very familiar banjos can be seen in Kermit's office.
    • Bobo is playing the sidekicknote  to a bad guy again.
    • The main characters singing Life's A Happy Song in front of a choreographed human crowd is similar to the opening number in The Great Muppet Caper.
    • When Gonzo makes his triumphant return, he starts it off with "Citizens of Earth!"
    • Sweetums apparently went back to working at Mad Man Mooney's car lot... and has to chase after Kermit and the crew AGAIN. The scene was even filmed at the same location.
    • "Didn't you watch our first movie? We drive."
    • At one point, it is mentioned that you just need one person to love you. "Just One Person", from one of the Peanuts musicals, Snoopy The Musical, was Jim Henson's favorite song and was featured both in the Bernadette Peters episode of The Muppet Show and the tribute special released shortly after his death as well as being performed by the Muppeteers at his memorial service.
    • Scooter, a computer nerd in his youth, found a job with Google.
      Scooter: Well, I'm off to the Ted conference!
    • Whoopi Goldberg is the first celebrity to show up at the Muppet Theatre to help, and one of the few that we can say with certainty are actually there because they want to be and not because their agents told them to. Not surprising, given her previous interactions with the Henson gang.
    • When Kermit initially refuses to try and reassemble the gang, Mary asides to Gary, "This is going to be a really short movie." This is similar to a line Kermit says to his boss in The Great Muppet Caper so that he doesn't fire him.
    • The riff that plays whenever Kermit and Piggy have a scene together is from "The First Time It Happens" from The Great Muppet Caper.
    • In the trailers, Statler and Waldorf asking if the Muppets film will be in 3D is a reference to Muppet*Vision 3D.
    • Gary and Walter are said to have been indistinguishable as children, despite one being a Muppet and the other a human. In The Great Muppet Caper, Kermit and Fozzie were identical twin reporters whom no one could tell apart unless Fozzie was wearing his hat.
  • Cool Teacher: Mary is apparently so popular with her students that they're disappointed about having to go on vacation. And she teaches them how to fix a 12-volt starter in a car.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: TEX RICHMAN.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Gonzo wore his stuntman outfit underneath his business suit every day so he can rip it off when the Muppets got back together. And had a remote ready to destroy his plumbing empire, just in case.
  • Creative Closing Credits: "Mahna Mahna! Do DOOOOO do do do!"
  • Crowd Song: A lot, "Life's a Happy Song" is an example.
  • Dance Line: The first song in the movie leads to this.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The Moopets. Richman specifically wants to position them as a new grim and gritty version of the Muppets.
    • This idea is also deconstructed in-universe, as much of the movie's plot involves the Muppets showing the world that there's still a place for the optimism and goodheartedness that makes them who they are. In this case, the "grim and gritty" Muppets are nothing more than a cynical attempt by a heartless businessman to cash in on what he thinks the public wants.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Uncle Deadly lampshades this trope as he points out his Evil Brit accent and his scary name doesn't actually make him evil. He declares himself a Muppet, not a Moopet. While laughing maniacally, of course.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Tex Richman.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf, to only name a few. More or less everyone gets a chance to snark in this one.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: TV programmer Veronica only gives the Muppets a spot due to a sudden schedule hole that needs to be filled, and is constantly harassing them about not making her look bad for it. During the show she starts to get more emotionally involved, until she's tearfully rooting for them after "The Rainbow Connection".
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Rizzo the rat is no longer paired with Gonzo in this film and is only seen in crowd shots, probably due to Steve Whitmire being really busy as Kermit. Kermit's nephew Robin suffers a similar fate. In the sequel, both characters complain about their lack of screen time in this film.
    • Pepé the King Prawn, who has been a main character in almost every other Muppet production before and since. He only gets a single spotlight scene, being the one Miss Piggy initially chooses as her dance partner. His reduced role can be attributed to the film relying heavily on ‘70s and ‘80s Muppet Show nostalgia, whereas Pepé wasn’t introduced until 1996.
    • Dave Goelz's characters (Gonzo and especially Bunsen Honeydew and Zoot) get very little to do here. At first this seems a bit bizarre, since Dave is one of the only puppeteers from The Muppet Show era still performing his characters consistently, but when one realizes Goelz had shoulder surgery just before filming began, his characters' reduced roles makes sense.
  • Deus ex Machina: After coming up short of the $10 million needed to save the theatre, the Muppets leave to a standing ovation from the crowd with their heads held high, knowing that they gave it their best shot. Suddenly, the bowling ball from Gonzo's head-bowling skit hits Tex Richman on the head.
    Fozzie: "Oil" bet that hurt.
    • Tex Richman finds the pun so funny, he gives the theatre back to the Muppets, and his change of heart is (allegedly) unrelated to his head injuries.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Tex Richman pulls several attempts to stop the show. Turns out he didn't need to, since they were never close to raising the ten million dollars anyway. Unusually for this trope, his attempts to stop the show are not the reason he ultimately fails to achieve his goal, although it does bring about Uncle Deadly's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Diegetic Visual Effects: One scene combines this with Left the Background Music On. It's night when Kermit the Frog makes his first appearance, and from the perspective of obsessive Muppet fan Walter, Kermit is spontaneously bathed in light from behind while an Ethereal Choir sings. Then the light is revealed to be the headlights of a passing bus—with a church choir aboard, practicing. As soon as the bus drives by, the scene returns to normal.
  • Disco Dan: The '80s Robot.
  • Distant Duet: "Me Party" (Mary and Piggy) and "Man or Muppet" (Gary, Walter, and their Muppet/human counterparts).
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Aside from the one in the bonus features (see Overly Long Gag), we have Mr. Richman with this line.
    Richman: Yeah, those Muppets are going to be running home with their tails between their legs. Some of 'em literally. Because those ones have tails. Maniacal laugh. Maniacal laugh.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
    • Sweet Jebbis, yes! New obstacles keep on appearing, Kermit comes close to losing it, and they initially don't even succeed in reaching their goal either. They would have lost the theatre if it weren't for a blow to the head to Tex Richman, which absolutely did not cause his personality to change!
    • This applies to Walter as well. His whole life growing up was a constant struggle, and one of the few things that helped him get through was his brother Gary and his love for the Muppets. He not only managed to bring back his heroes together to save the show, but was acknowledged as one of them so unconditionally that it was nothing less than a dream come true. The scene just before the final music number was him being lifted by the Muppets in front of their cheering fans.
  • The '80s Robot: Still doesn't know New Coke and Tab are out of vogue. Or that cans of New Coke are now undrinkable.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: When Gary and Walter are preparing to go to the Muppet studios:
    Walter: Maybe Kermit will be there!
    Gary: I wouldn't get your hopes up, buddy. The Muppets haven't put on a show together in years. I don't think they use the studios for anything but tours anymore.
    Walter: I think that's just an Internet rumor, like, "There's a country called Turkey!"
    Gary: Walter, how many times do we have to go through this? Turkey is a real place!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Uncle Deadly really doesn't want to be a Moopet, or work under a horrendously evil jerk.
  • Everytown, America: Smalltown
  • Evil Brit: Uncle Deadly subverts this when he stands up to Tex Richman:
    Tex Richman: Deadly! What are you doing?
    Uncle Deadly: Enough! Just because I have a terrifying name and an evil English accent, does not preclude the fact that, in my heart, I am a Muppet, not a Moopet!
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: After he succeeds in claiming the Muppet name and studios, Tex appears begrudged that the Muppets still have their fans cheering them on, as hinted in "Life's a Happy Song", as hinted by the way he says, "Will you please stop singing? You've already sung this song." He also yells at them to stop calling them "Muppets", as he now owns the rights to that name — right before a blow to his head from Gonzo's bowling ball triggers Tex's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Moopets.
  • Evil Laugh: Uncle Deadly and Bobo, but mocked with Tex Richman, who simply mutters: "Maniacal laugh... maniacal laugh...". Most of the time, it's not so convincing... until Uncle Deadly pulls his Heel–Face Turn, and ironically pulls a very good one. Immediately Lampshaded afterward.
    Uncle Deadly: Now that's a maniacal laugh for you!
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Played with. Walter paraphrases the conversation between Statler & Waldorf and Richman (and minions), but uses an Edward G. Robinson voice to describe how Tex sounded.
    Mary: People still talk like that?
    Walter: Well, maybe that's just how he sounded in my head.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe example with the executive in charge of organizing the telethon, who mandates that the Muppets must get a celebrity host for their show... a celebrity who is popular in today's decade... or she will pull the plug on them.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When Gary is trying to figure out why Mary is furious with him, he goes to Walter for help. Walter, too caught up in helping the Muppets, insists that’s more important, erroneously claiming that was why they came to LA. Gary angrily points out that they actually came for his and Mary’s anniversary, and then comes up short, realising what he’s done wrong.
  • Exposition Bomb:
  • Expospeak Gag: Gary comes into the hotel room and Mary is reading a thesaurus. At first you think she's just that bored, but then she starts breaking out synonyms for the word "alone"...
    Mary: I went to Guinness Book of World Records, alone. Then Ripley's Believe It or Not, solo. And then I ate lunch unaccompanied, and then I walked back here, independently. [...] I'm going to go for a walk. Individually.
  • Fainting: Walter. Three times.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job:
    • Fozzie's making ends meet in a Muppets cover band.
    • Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem also (sans Animal), who are street performers in the Times Square MTA subway station.
  • Fan Myopia: In-universe, Walter evinces essentially no understanding that his love of the Muppets is not shared to the same degree by others — to the point where he completely forgets that the Muppets weren't the original focus of their California trip and he himself wasn't even supposed to have gone along in the first place.
  • Fastball Special: Gary and Walter's method of catching a fly ball, in the intro. Reused when they try trespassing onto Kermit's house, to warn him about Richman's plan.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Literally, but not explosive information. Gary learns that Mary has returned to Smalltown, and then comes the "Muppet or a Man" song. Then we see a bus returning to Smalltown and it's a safe assumption that Mary is on it and has just gotten back — we just saw Gary in LA, after all. HOWEVER, and blink and you'll miss it, the Population: X, and Counting dropped by three from 102 to 99 when they left at the beginning, and when the bus is returning the sign adds one going from 100 to 101. Mary is already back in town. However before you can think about this or even do the math, Gary is walking up to Mary's house.
  • Flyover Country: Gary and Walter come from Smalltown, U.S.A., a fictional town somewhere around the Kansas-Missouri border. Also, the Travel by Map button is introduced in mid-Missouri (somewhere near Springfield) before they travel to Paris. And Gonzo's plumbing business is in Nebraska.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: During Richman's Piss-Take Rap Villain Song, the audience can Follow The Bouncing Blinged-Out Dollar Sign.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the beginning, Walter watches the episode with guest Steve Martin — in which the Muppets audition new acts.
    • Kermit's house has him and Miss Piggy on the front gates despite Kermit living alone. We later learn that Miss Piggy built the house for THEM to live in.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Kermit's discarded pile of "celebrity" phone numbers includes Corey Feldman, Barbara Walters, and Cyndi Lauper.
  • Freudian Excuse: The soundtrack-only extended cut of "Let's Talk About Me" (that one rap) gives one to Tex Richman. He and his childhood friends saw a performance by The Muppets on his tenth birthday and Tex didn't know how to laugh, so all of his friends laughed at him. The only reference to this in the film proper is a single comment by Uncle Deadly.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • When the camera pans over the Muppets who are answering phones, one is chewing on the phone rather than talking on it.
    • And when Mary looks out the window after being asked if she minds Walter coming on the trip with them, you see the extras in the first big dance number laying around exhausted, including an elderly woman with an oxygen mask and a woman in heels being carried away on a stretcher.
    • On close inspection, Tex Richman's Villain Decay was preceded by him downing about a dozen Red Bulls before rushing to the Muppet Theatre.
  • Friend Versus Lover: Mary feels neglected by her boyfriend, who's constantly fretting over his brother. She's never angry at Walter himself, but wishes that Gary could focus on her sometimes and give his brother independence.
  • Genre Savvy: A traditional part of the Muppet films/acts is that they know they're in a film, so Walter, The Big Bad, Mary, everyone really gets an opportunity to make No Fourth Wall jokes or give a warning/advice based on how previous Muppet films have gone.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Here is Good Animal, Bad Animal... Unfortunately for Animal, both his 'angel' and his 'devil' suffer from Hulk Speak just as he does. "DRUM!" "NOT DRUM!"
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: "Me Party." But who cares—it's Amy Adams singing and dancing again! (And Miss Piggy, too.)
  • Gray Rain of Depression:
    • Spoofed: Mary's song, as she laments Gary's over-devotion to his brother Walter, that it's never "Me and him" but "Me and him and him". It turns out to be the janitor hosing some gunk off the windows of the school.
    • Played straight: Gary returns to the motel room in a tux and holding flowers after realizing why Mary was so upset with him (he'd been so caught up in helping the Muppets restore the theatre he completely forgot it was his and Mary's tenth anniversary) to discover Mary gone and a note that reads:
      I've gone home.
      I love you, but you have to decide. Are you a man... or a muppet?
    • ...which results in the despondent Gary walking the lonely empty streets of Hollywood just as it begins to rain.
  • Hard-Work Montage: To the tune of "We Built This City", the Muppets restore the theatre to its old brilliance (excepting a hole in the roof). It also got a heavy lampshading by having the Muppets watch Scooter sweep while humming a bit and commenting that it's pretty boring, until Walter pipes up to remind them that they always did that to music.
  • Hate Sink: Tex Richman is an evil oil baron with no redeeming qualitiesnote  who buys the abandoned Muppet Studios with the intention of tearing it down and drilling for the oil underneath it. Richman also intends to take the rights of everything Muppets-related and pass them on to the ill-natured Moopets. While giving them little time to raise the money, Richman also attempts on two different occasions to sabotage those attempts, and when the Muppets aren’t able to raise the money, he rubs it in their faces. While a greedy jerk, Richman also just ultimately likes being mean for the sake of being mean.
  • Head Desk: Miss Piggy does this in her office when she finds out she was tricked by a Paper-Thin Disguise.
    "I can't believe I fell for 'Muppet Man'."
  • Heel–Face Turn: Uncle Deadly, followed by Tex Richman after he's hit with a bowling ball. It has nothing to do with brain damage.
  • Heel Realization: Bobo wonders if he and Uncle Deadly are working for the bad guy. Deadly is devastated to consider this, and spells it out in even bigger terms when he shoves Richman off the theatre roof.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Brothers Walter and Gary. It's more than implied that Gary hasn't proposed to Mary yet because he doesn't want to leave Walter alone.
  • Hey, Let's Put on a Show: The plot culminates in a telethon to save the Muppet Theatre.
  • Hidden Depths: Walter's talent for whistling isn't precisely hidden. He whistles when he's happy and occupied. He just didn't think of it as a talent until he was put on the spot and had to come up with something.
  • Hope Spot:
    • When Walter goes on for his whistling act, we're led to believe that the Muppets really will raise enough money to save their theatre. Turns out, they won't, but everything works out anyway.
    • Averted with Gonzo: Gonzo is a very successful businessman, of course he'll have 10 million dollars to spare, right? Or at least a couple thousand, getting them started. But before the audience can even think about this, Gonzo does a Gonzo thing and destroys his business.
  • Human-Focused Adaptation: Averted. In fact, the humans' story winds up being separate from the advertised story of the Muppets rising back to fame and in the end, they are only there to have actual actors headlining in the marquee. Extends to the end credits, where the Muppeteers are credited before the actors!
  • Hurricane of Puns: The opening song.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In the Triumphant Reprise of "Life's A Happy Song", Statler and Waldorf comment on how "[they're] happier when [the Muppets] don't sing". Cut to the Incredibly Long Note at the end of the song, and they're singing along.
  • I Wish It Were Real: Walter dreams about Kermit and the gang literally popping out through his TV screen and inviting him to join them in The Muppet Show. It promptly devolves into a nightmare when he can't go into the television.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: Played with. They're only half-naked!
  • Imagine Spot: Mary's solo in "Life's A Happy Song": she imagines Gary riding up on a white steed, then leaping off in full top hat and tails to propose to her. He does at the end, though minus the outfit and horse.
  • Impact Silhouette: Walter proves capable of causing this when he bails on doing his act in a fit of Stage Fright.
  • Impairment Shot: Walter gets one of Mary, Gary, and Kermit coming into focus as he wakes from fainting. Upon being told he's in Kermit's house, he passes out again.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Lew Zealand attempts to justify the kidnapping of Jack Black to Kermit by saying that, as a celebrity, Jack Black does not officially count as a person.
  • Intermission: The Blu-Ray will start one up if you leave the movie paused for more than 3 seconds.
  • Irony: Jack Black being beaten up, fighting movie style.
  • It Came from the Fridge: What the Swedish Chef finds when he opens the fridge in the abandoned Muppet Theatre. Of course, Muppet food tends to be sentient to begin with...
  • It's All About Me: The Big Bad.
  • "I Want" Song: Mary's solo for "Life's a Happy Song".
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Gonzo won't go back to show business because he feels he needs a stable job for Camilla. When the gang arrives, he initially turns them down, until Camilla tells him that she knows he wants to perform again and she's okay with it. This is especially heartwarming on Gonzo's part given his somewhat shaky devotion to Camilla in previous works.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: Parodied. While they're tidying up the studio, Fozzie finds an Embarrassing Old Photo of him with '80s Hair... or so he says. In fact, he looks exactly the same as he does now.
  • Jerkass: Tex's actions during the movie and his sheer determination to prevent the Muppets from reaching their goal make him tiptoe dangerously close to the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Karma Houdini: The Muppets never suffer any consequences for kidnapping Jack Black.
    • Tex, who gets away with multiple counts of interfering with the telethon and evil gloating. Subverted in the credits! He takes a bowling ball to the ribs and a trashcan to the head... which turns out to be Percussive Maintenance.
  • Kids Are Cruel:
    • The reason Tex Richman is the Corrupt Corporate Executive he is. His friends laughed at him for not knowing how to laugh, some friends he had...
    • Walter also gets mocked a fair bit during the childhood montage, on account of his love of the Muppets; for example, when he shows up for trick-or-treating dressed as Kermit.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Swedish Chef's method of clearing out a fridge that has had food (which, as per tradition with him, is Muppet-style sentient) sit in it so long, it's gone very moldy. He quotes Scarface (1983) while doing it, too. Well, as much as possible.
  • King of the Homeless: In a blink-and-miss-it gag during the ending, we see the Hobos carry away the still tied-up Jack Black.
    Hobo Muppet: All Hail the Hobo King!
  • Knee Capping: When the Muppets execute their plan to kidnap Jack Black, the Swedish Chef manages to knock him down with a rolling pin to the knee.
  • Lampshade Hanging: It is a Muppet movie, after all.
  • Laugh with Me!: Richman has to prompt Uncle Deadly and Bobo when it's time for a "Maniacal Laugh", since he can't do one himself.
  • Left the Background Music On: See Cherubic Choir above.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Gently spoofed. Everybody acts as though Mary is some sort of weirdo for eating alone at a a diner, even though this is perfectly common. They don't seem to have a problem with her doing a musical number about it, though.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Though it is never directly referenced, Walter looks exactly like a Muppet from our first view of him, and as he grows up, he never gets any taller than Muppet-size, three feet tall. Kermit ties it up nicely when he thanks Walter for making their reunion possible and welcomes him as part of the family. Gary ties up the other end when the Muppets realize that they still have legions of fans who are delighted to see them return; he tells Walter to go be with the Muppets; they belong together as family.
  • Meaningful Background Event: During her rehearsal with Pepe, Piggy can be seen in the mirror behind him after she goes off screen, she starts running before he counts to three.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Come on! Why don't you join us!"
  • Medium Awareness: Another longstanding Muppet trope.
    Fozzie Bear: Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion! I can't believe we had that in the budget.
    Kermit: We're all back together... even you guys who weren't in the montage!
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Bobo.
    "So... do you think we're working for the bad guy?"
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The movie starts with a montage of Gary and Walter growing up in their hometown of Smalltown.
  • Misplaced a Decimal Point: At the end of the telethon, the Muppets have raised $9,999,999 — one dollar short of the $10 million they need to save their theatre. As Richman gloats, Fozzie bangs his head against the money counter in despair. The display flickers, rolls, and resets... revealing that the decimal point wasn't displaying correctly, and that they actually raised only $99,999.99.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Just look at it. Walter (the Muppet) is evidently played by Amy Adams and Chris Cooper is playing a girl who looks like Amy Adams. Alternately, you can interpret it as Jason Segel and Amy Adams shown correctly, but Chris Cooper is apparently playing Animal.
  • Moment Killer: Gary and Walter have been inseparable their whole lives, but Gary tells Walter that he's taking Mary to Los Angeles for their tenth anniversary. Walter, despondent at being left behind but trying to buck up, asks for them to send a postcard from Muppet Studios. Gary says he can't do that because Walter's coming along. Walter asks if that won't be a problem. Gary assures him Mary is fine with it and that she says, "the more, the merrier!" Several scenes later, he arrives to pick up Mary, and we see him spring on Mary that Walter is coming along. Mary is less than okay with it and says she wanted them to have some alone time (in the hopes Gary would propose).
  • The Movie: This is The Muppet Show: The Movie.
  • Mr. Exposition: Waldorf becomes one when he, Statler, Bobo, Uncle Deadly, and Tex Richman are meeting in Kermit's Old Office Room:
    Waldorf: Now, ahem, this here is the standard "Rich and Famous" contract Kermit signed 30 years ago that contains –
    Tex Richman: The deed to this property.
    Waldorf: Exactly. Now, this contract is 100% iron-clad, with one minor exception: if the Muppets can raise the $10 million it would cost to buy the building before this contract expires, then they get their studio back.
    Statler: You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were reciting some sort of an important plot point.
    Waldorf: Well, I hope so; otherwise I just bored the audience half to death.
    Statler: You mean half the audience is still alive? [Statler and Waldorf chuckle]
  • Musical World Hypothesis: Either the "Alternate Universe Hypothesis" or the "Diegetic Hypothesis"; it's hard to tell what with the constant Lampshade Hanging of the musical numbers and the Muppets being Animated Actors in "our" world and such.
    Gary: I've made up my mind, and I just sang a song about it.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: The first three celebs to show up at the telethon: Whoopi Goldberg (name checked in the movie), Selena Gomez (name checked in the movie) and... some random kid (he goes un-checked, but is played by Rico Rodriguez, the actor who plays Manny on Modern Family).
    "Whoopi Goldberg! Selena Gomez! Uh... hi you!"
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Uncle Deadly as Tex Richman's sidekick. Subverted and lampshaded with his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
  • No Fourth Wall: As typical of Muppet movies.
    Statler: It feels like we just mentioned a really important plot point.
    Waldorf: I hope so, or we bored the audience half to death for nothing.
    Statler: You mean half the audience is still alive?
    • After Kermit says there's no way to raise ten million dollars to save the studio, minutes into the movie:
      Mary: Ohhh, this is gonna be a really short movie.
    • After asking how Kermit's going to pick up the rest of the Muppets:
      Kermit: Didn't you see our first movie? We drive!
    • After the Muppets run from an enormous (off-screen) explosion:
      Fozzie: Wow. That looked like a really expensive explosion. I didn't know we had that much in the budget.
      Robot: May I suggest we pick up the rest of the Muppets using a Montage?
      Rowlf: Hey yeah, how come you didn't use me in the montage?
    • "Life's a Happy Song (finale)" begins with Uncle Deadly saying, "How charming, a finale." The lyrics include these:
      Marvin Suggs: The movie's almost over. It's time to say, "So long!"
      Tex Richman: Will you please stop singing? You've already sung this song!
    • Mary leads into the end credits by saying "Mahna mahna" into the camera.
  • Noodle Incident: The undisclosed reason why Animal is attending court-ordered anger management sessions with Jack Black.
  • Obviously Evil: Uncle Deadly, natch. However, Even Evil Has Standards.
  • Old Media Are Evil:
    Things That Stink: Old People, Young People, The French, The Non-French, Foreign Countries, Domestic Countries.
  • One-Joke Fake Show: One of the most popular children's shows is Punch Teacher, which consists of children punching a teacher for two hours. It becomes a plot point: the Muppets earn a time slot for their telethon because Punch Teacher gets cancelled (due to a completely unexpected protest by the teachers' union.)
  • Only Sane Man: In an obviously ironic manner, Jack Black.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Uncle Deadly. His exact species isn't stated in the film, but the junior novelization does refer to him as a dragon (the most common assumption).
  • Overly Long Gag:
    • All of the metaphors and their subsequent rhymes in "Life's a Happy Song" ("Life's a piece of pie/With someone to stir and someone to fry", "Life's a bunch of flowers/With someone to while away the hours") which come one after the other, and seem endless until we get to the line "Life's a fillet of fish", to which Gary and Walter respond with just "Uh... yes it is."
    • In the bloopers reel, Hobo Joe makes a crack about the chicken being done, at which point a singed chicken of Gonzo's walks out of his fire-pit. One of the hobo puppets makes a crack about having ordered it To-Go, and around 2 minutes is spent with Hobo Joe needing it explained to him.
  • Overly Long Scream: Walter, after he finds out the Big Bad's evil scheme. It lasts for not quite 20 seconds in the theatrical release. 20 seconds... which translates to three scene changes. Gary and Mary may have heard him for hours.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: "Muppet Man". Apparently, all Muppets know about this trick, yet Miss Piggy still falls for it.
  • Parental Bonus: Scooter, the tech guy, is on his way to a TED conference.
  • Parent Service: Muppets are much shorter than the average human — just short enough to be chest height to Amy Adams, to be precise.
  • Percussive Maintenance:
    • Fozzie bangs his head against the money counter in despair. The display flickers, rolls, and resets... fixing the Misplaced a Decimal Point that had been plaguing the machine the entire telethon.
    • This also applies to Tex Richman - a head injury ends up fixing whatever defect left him unable to laugh.
  • Picture-Perfect Presentation: Kermit has portraits of the Electric Mayhem, Gonzo, The Swedish Chef, and Fozzie in his house. As he sings "Pictures in My Head", they go from still paintings to live Muppets, singing along. They return to portraits as the song ends. He has one of Miss Piggy too, but it doesn't come to life and it's covered under sheets, because Kermit was hit hard by their break-up.
  • Piss-Take Rap: Tex Richman's Villain Song. The assorted cast stare in bemusement at this.
  • Poor Man's Substitute: In-Universe example. The Moopets are a knockoff band playing at a cheap motel in Reno with only Fozzie to give them cred when the Muppets disbanded. When the actual Muppets reform and Fozzie returns to them, the other members are not pleased.
  • Population: X, and Counting: The population sign for Smalltown reduces by 3 as the main characters leave.
  • Postmodernism: Like so many Muppet productions before, you'd better believe this film is as meta as possible.
  • Product Placement:
    • Billboards for Cars 2 appear in prominent locations several times.
    • A sign for Jimmy Kimmel Live! is prominent, as the exteriors of the Muppet Theatre are those of the Disney-owned El Capitan Theatre, near where JKL tapes.
    • In-Universe. The cooks try to put the line "Life's a fillet of fish" into the song "Life's a Happy Song", leading to an awkward moment when the characters can't find a rhyme for it.
  • Psycho Rangers: The Moopets gradually become this, as it's eventually revealed that Tex Richman plans to replace the real Muppets with them, believing that the original gang's shameless optimism and goodheartedness have no place in the modern world.
  • Put on a Bus: Most of the "newer" Muppets that premiered on Muppets Tonight were put aside to bring back a more retro feel. Pepe the Prawn and Bobo are the sole exceptions. This is somewhat ironic as many of the "original" Muppets were Put on a Bus to make room for said newer Muppets when Muppets Tonight was in development.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Kermit and Walter go on a cross-country trip to get the crew back together for a big comeback.
  • Reality Subtext: The whole movie is about the Muppets' popularity having severely declined over the years, and their getting one more chance to show the world they've still got what it takes. And that's exactly what happened, given the film's reception.
    • In-universe: A fan of the Muppets dreams of bringing them back to fame and work with them!
    • Out-of-universe: A fan of the Muppets dreams of bringing them back to fame and work with them! Coincidence?note 
  • Race Against the Clock: The telethon, which only has a night to raise the funds to buy back the studio.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: Walter, a brand-new Muppet created for the film, is described as a plain brown puppet. He's not exactly a fan of how generic he is.
  • Rousing Speech: Kermit gives two — the first one is subverted, as he's talking about how kids are "better than all this junk" in an effort to get the telethon on the air... only to get a door slammed in his face by a Junior Executive at the network bearing news that Punch Teacher was canceled due to complaints from the PTA, so they need something to fill the time-slot. The second one is given in full, and is quite heartwarming.
    • When Kermit's going through a moment of despair, Piggy delivers a short speech to the rest that is rousing in spite of her It's All About Me attitude:
    Piggy: All right! Listen, you freaks — I didn't come 5000 miles to not be on TV!
  • Rushmore Refacement: Crazy Harry pulls this.
  • Sadist Show: In-universe, what we see of Punch Teacher appears to be a bunch of kids hitting a well-meaning teacher. Which goes on for ''two hours''.
    • The telethon is also this in-universe. Most of its humor comes from Jack Black being tormented by the Muppets.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Justified with Tex Richman's "Maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh!", as he is physically incapable of laughing before his head injury, and uses these, along with Bobo and Uncle Deadly's laugh, as a proxy.
  • Sequel: Concerning the story, it's a sequel to The Muppet Movie and partially The Muppets Take Manhattan, although it takes small liberties with the timeline, inserting a couple characters from Muppets Tonight into it.
  • Serkis Folk: In-movie example, with Jack Black appearing on a movie lot in a motion capture suit, allowing him to make a joke about balls.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Once they finish the reunion montage, nearly the entire gang is back together in the rental car. But once they "travel by map" to Paris to recruit Miss Piggy, most of the side characters — Sam, Swedish Chef, Bunsen and Beaker, the Electric Mayhem, Crazy Harry — suddenly disappear, leaving only the main few Muppets — Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, Rowlf, and Animal.
  • Shoot the Television: Tex Richman finishes a round of fencing and then sees on the news that the Muppets are raising the money to buy their theatre back. He throws his fencing blade at the TV in response.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Miss Piggy's dance rehearsal with Pepe the Prawn is a Shout Out to Dirty Dancing.
    • The premise of Jack Black hosting the show against his will is the same one used in the John Cleese episode of The Muppet Show. Both even start their respective 'episodes' bound to a chair and gagged.
    • Mary does a bit of the roll dance from The Gold Rush.
    • The "Me Party" song is very reminiscent of a typical musical number from Flight of the Conchords, right down to the staging and camera work, which the director and songwriter also worked on.
    • The Swedish Chef says, in his own barely intelligible way, "Say hello to my little friend!" as he's clearing out the fridge.
    • Walter's "Even the sunniest days can have a few clouds in them" can be seen as a reference to Sesame Street's theme song: "Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away".
    • Donald Glover sharing a scene with Rashida Jones, whom he's rapped about before.
    • During the early part of the film set in Gary and Walter's small all-American town, there's a cameo by Mickey Rooney, star of the Andy Hardy films set in a small all-American town.
      • It's also a reference to the Backyard Musicals Rooney did with Judy Garland ("Let's get everyone together and put on a show!")
    • Camilla and the other chickens sing "Forget You"... just like they did with Cee-Lo during the 2011 Grammys.
    • One that almost doubles as Parental Bonus: the car being worked on by Mary in her class at the beginning of the film is a Morris Minor, the stock car from Peter Jackson's infamous R-rated Muppets parody Meet the Feebles.
    • Fozzie playing a gig at a hotel and his subsequent recruitment bring to mind The Blues Brothers.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Beauregard has apparently been living in his janitor's closet since the last time the Muppets performed in the theatre, occasionally wondering where everybody went.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The Muppets are champions of idealism: Tex Richman (and, to a lesser degree, the TV executive) are cynics.
  • Sound Effects Bleep: A fairly funny example when the barbershop quartet are singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and avoid the lines "a mulatto" and "my libido" by having Beaker sing them.
    • They use a similar trick (having it be sung by the chickens) to get away with including Cee-Lo Green's "Fuck You" in the show, although the chickens clearly sing two syllables, indicating that it's the radio edit "Forget You".
      • In the movie, yes; on the longer soundtrack version there are a couple of times where seems to be only one cluck...
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Pops up as Gary and Walter walk to the school to pick up Mary, then as the three walk to the bus stop.
    • Evidently this is exhausting in-universe. When Mary looks out the window at Walter after saying it is fine that he's coming to LA you can see the townspeople who danced along with them lying around, exhausted. Then once they leave town, everyone collapses.
    • Also when Walter goes onstage for his whistling song. We'd been told they had two minutes to come up with something, and a substantial part of that was Gary convincing Walter to go onstage. At the end of those two minutes, though, Walter is ready for his act, the spotlight is on him and the orchestra knows exactly which piece to play.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Walter gets more focus than any other character, even Kermit (it's debatable whether Gary and Mary get more focus than the main Muppets as well). Thankfully, the guy turned out to be an immensely popular and likable character, preventing him from becoming the Creator's Pet he could have easily become.
  • Statler and Waldorf: They are the first original Muppets (not counting the dream sequence or the archived footage of the TV show) to appear in the film, first selling the Muppet Theatre to Tex Richman, and then returning to their traditional box for the telethon.
    • "I love geriatric humor."
  • Stealth Pun/Parental Bonus: Camilla the Chicken and company cluck out Cee-Lo's "Forget You" — or, better known as its uncensored version, "Cluck You".
    • Staying with Camilla, and doubling as a Funny Background Event, when she's seen typing in the background behind the main cast meeting Gonzo, how is she typing? By the Hunt-and-Peck method, of course.
    • When Kermit asks "Piggy, why do you always have to be so over-dramatic about things?", or to paraphrase, she's hamming it up.
    • From "Pictures In My Head":
      Kermit (to a portrait of Fozzie Bear): They might have been unbearable, but I still loved your jokes.
    • Miss Piggy drops a clever one when she is first approached by the Muppets, in Paris. She claims it's always "'WE' this and 'WE' that". One imagines a lot of things in France would be "'OUI' this and 'OUI' that", too.
  • Still Got It: All the Muppets realize that they never lost any of their talent and skill after years of living under the radar. But they still can't seem to keep rhythm in a song without Animal's percussion, who has been in anger management to control his violent ways and has thus vowed not to play drums. When he does finally return to the drums, Floyd uses this trope to congratulate him.
  • Stood Up: Played with. Gary promises Mary he'll show and they'll have dinner together, and she should go ahead and go sightseeing on her own without him. She spends most of the day sightseeing, clearly hoping he'll show, but he doesn't. And then he tops it off by saying "I don't care, whatever you want" when she asks about dinner — on their anniversary. Their tenth anniversary.
  • Sudden Principled Stand: Uncle Deadly makes one of these as Tex Richman is about to shut off the power:
    Tex Richman: To the end of the Muppets!
    [Uncle Deadly grabs the bolt cutters]
    Tex Richman: Deadly! What are you doing?
    Uncle Deadly: Enough! Just because I have a terrifying name and an evil English accent, does not preclude the fact that, in my heart, I am a Muppet, not a Moopet! Looks like it's I who will have the last laugh!
    Tex Richman: What does that mean?
    Uncle Deadly: It's an idiom, you idiot, because you cannot laugh! Ha ha!
    [Tex Richman falls to the ground below]
    Uncle Deadly: Oopsie. [Uncle Deadly laughs]
    Tex Richman: Deadly.
    Uncle Deadly: Now that's a maniacal laugh for you!
  • Sure, Let's Go with That:
    Rico Rodriguez: Are you one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
    Kermit: Yyyyyes I am!
    • Even earlier, outside the Muppet Studio lot:
      Tourist: Is this Universal Studios?
      Tour guide: (defeatedly) ...yes it is.
    • Life's a filet of fish! ...yes it is!
    • Scooter has to M.C. despite a bit of stage fright. He tries the old trick of picturing the audience naked, but the best he can do is get them down to modest underwear. He shrugs and gets on with it.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Tex Richman's change of heart has nothing to do with brain damage.
  • There Can Only Be One: Miss Piggy forces Miss Poogy out of the telethon, stating this trope nearly verbatim.
  • Time-Compression Montage: Lampshaded by the 80's Robot.
    "May I suggest we save time and pick up the rest of the Muppets using a montage?"
  • Toilet Humor: Played with in the form of Fozzie's "Fart Shoes".
    • Several Muppet veterans (including Frank Oz) refused to work on the film explaining how the script didn't appear to be faithful to the Muppets, using the fart shoes as an example of poor jokes... when Fozzie has always made poor jokes!
      • Not only that, but the "Fart Shoes" joke was meant as a Lampshade/parody of poor jokes...
  • Totem Pole Trench: "Muppet Man", which allows our heroes to get into Miss Piggy's office. She is notably chagrined when she realizes what happened.
    Miss Piggy: [Head Desk] I can't believe I fell for "Muppet Man"!
  • Travel Montage: Invoked ("We should travel by map!") and subverted.
  • Traveling-Pipe Bulge: When Beaker gets sucked into the Large Hadron Collider.
  • Triumphant Reprise: Of "Life's A Happy Song"
    • This gets mocked (and Lampshaded by Tex: "Would you please stop singing, you've already sung this song!"
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: For the trailer. In the car, the classic "Mahna Mahna" tune (the version from The Muppet Show) plays on the radio.
    "Maybe we should've gotten a bigger car."
  • Underdogs Never Lose: The telethon becomes massively popular, despite financial issues, and the Muppets rise back to fame in-universe. It goes along with one of the morals: it's the friends you work with that make you successful and the fact you tried. And Tex gives them back everything, anyway. Change of heart absolutely NOT related to the concussion he receives.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: True to form (and her job), Miss Piggy's always seen in some fancy outfit for nearly every new scene.
  • The Unreveal:
    Gary: Will you, Mary, marry me?
    Mary: ...Mahna Mahna. (cue song)
    • However, in the junior novelization, it was revealed that Mary accepted Gary's proposal.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Rowlf's long-lost boss, the guy he last saw thirty years ago, shows up at Rowlf's doorstep to announce that he's Putting the Band Back Together in an attempt to preserve their beloved former workplace from demolition:
    Kermit: Hey, Rowlf. Wanna get back together?
    Rowlf (not even getting out of his hammock): Okay.
  • Vaudeville Hook: Used during the montage to yank the Muppets out of their jobs, and later used to get Gonzo off stage during the show.
  • Vertigo Effect: Walter when he overhears Tex Richman's plot.
  • Villain Song: Tex Richman's rap song, "Let's Talk About Me".
  • Villainous Breakdown: Tex Richman is very smug and composed for most of the film, but as soon as he realizes the Muppets actually have a chance, he devolves into yelling and smashing things. It only gets worse as he gets more and more beat up.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The red car — possibly a rental, because they took a bus to LA — takes them to Kermit's house, and then is never seen again. They leave in Kermit's car, driven by the robot. The red car is never seen or mentioned again.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kermit was really unhappy (or more fittingly, upset and nervous) that the gang kidnapped Jack Black and only went along with it because there wasn't enough time to get a host legitimately. It was after all an unlawful act.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: The Muppets have until midnight on the night of the telethon to raise the money for the theatre.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It's never exactly pointed out how far Smalltown, USA is from LA, but it's far enough that Walter, in all his years as a Muppet fan, has never visited, and they take a bus to get there.
    • According to the map at the beginning of the movie, it seems to be in Nebraska or Kansas.
  • William Telling: Head Bowling!
  • Wrench Wench: Mary is very good at working with cars and electricity.
  • Writer on Board: Possibly. Kermit protests that kids are smart enough to deserve better than shows like Punch Teacher, but is cut off by the TV executive. Then again, Kermit has appeared on Sesame Street, which has been very upfront with young children on issues such as death, so it's still in-character.
  • World of Ham: As any Muppet movie, helped this time by the lack of fourth wall. Special mention goes to Chris Cooper's Card-Carrying Villain.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Pepe was featured very prominently in trailers and promotional material. His head in the poster pictured above is even in a spot that implies he's a main character. He only appears for about a minute, excluding easy-to-miss appearances in most of the crowd scenes towards the end.
    • He's even on the spine of the Blu-ray along with Kermit, and on both spines of the O-Sleeve. One would think they're doing it deliberately or something...
  • You Bastard!: It's pretty hard not to feel guilty while watching this movie if your interest in the Muppets has waned since your childhood.
  • You Must Be This Tall to Ride: Walter is shown being unable to go on a carnival ride due to this.

Alternative Title(s): The Muppets


The Muppets

Muppet Man.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (22 votes)

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Main / TotemPoleTrench

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