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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Muppets

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Amy Adams and Jason Segel are seen with puppet characters in the movie "The Muppets."
Jim Henson's singing, dancing, wise-cracking band of puppets returns to the big screen in "The Muppets" (Disney), an old-fashioned and genuinely funny homage to a simpler age of wholesome family films.

Refreshingly restrained when it comes to the toilet humor and rude behavior so often spoon-fed to young filmgoers these days, "The Muppets" will appeal to nostalgic baby boomers, even as it introduces a new generation to the decidedly low-tech felt figures for whom charm is a strong suit.

Gary (Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller) and his brother Walter (voice of Peter Linz) live in Smalltown, U.S.A. They're good pals, despite the fact that Walter is decidedly different—in fact, he's a Muppet. Together they watch TV reruns of "The Muppet Show," which, as many viewers will remember, originally aired in first-run syndication from 1976 to1981.

When Gary decides to take his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), to Los Angeles for their 10th anniversary, he invites Walter to come along and see the Muppet Studios where their favorite series was produced.

To their horror, they find that the Muppets have disbanded and the theater is in shambles. Walter stumbles upon the designs of wicked oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who wants to tear down the studios and drill for oil—unless $10 million can be raised in just two days.

Walter persuades Gary and Mary to mount a rescue. "As long as there are singing frogs and dancing bears the world is a good and kind place," Walter says. "There is hope."

They locate Kermit the Frog (voice of Steve Whitmire), down and out in his Beverly Hills mansion, surrounded by memories of long-ago fame.

Kermit agrees to stage a telethon, and sets out in his Rolls-Royce with his new friends to round up the old gang. Fozzie Bear (voice of Eric Jacobson) is discovered in Reno performing with a tribute band called "The Moopets." Animal (also voiced by Jacobson), the manic rock-and-roll drummer, is taking anger management classes with Jack Black, who reluctantly becomes the celebrity host of the telethon.

In Paris (the Rolls drives there, underwater), Miss Piggy (also voiced by Jacobson) is the plus-size editor for Vogue magazine. She still pines for Kermit, whom she hoped to marry. "We could have had a home and raised tadpoles and grown old together," she tells him.

But felt proves thicker than water, and the Muppets reunite, clean up the old theater, and start rehearsals for the telethon. As they assume their old identities, the brothers rediscover their own.

"Am I a man or a Muppet?" Gary asks. "Am I a Muppet or a man?" Walter asks. The answers come with good lessons about family, friendship, believing in yourself and following your dreams.

Directed by newcomer James Bobin, "The Muppets" contains several catchy songs and some exuberant dance numbers. Among the many celebrity cameos is Mickey Rooney, that old hoofer who knew a thing or two about putting on a fun show for the entire family.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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