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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Chris Cooper Raps (The Muppets)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #1

If you ever need proof of how delightfully absurd The Muppets was, the sight of Oscar-winner Chris Cooper dancing and rapping across his desk, only to unleash a storeroom full of chorus girls while Jason Segel looks on in confusion should do the trick. It’s a fantastic moment because it’s so ridiculously surreal. Cooper is rapping for about a minute of screen-time, meaning that it’s over before it has really begun – leaving both the characters and the audience wondering what the hell just happened.

In a great way.

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To be honest, I considered including all of Bret McKenzie’s work on The Muppets here. The writing, coupled with the perfectly game delivery from the cast, made it easily one of the best musical soundtracks in years. Whether it’s Jason Segel hamming it up in Man or Muppet or Amy Adams rocking a distinctly eighties vocal style in Me Party and Life’s a Happy Song. McKenzie deservedly took home an Oscar for Man or Muppet, and the whole soundtrack just sizzles as both an incredibly catchy collection of tunes and one of the funniest aspects of a hilarious film.

Still, the sight of Chris Cooper triumphantly rapping takes the cake. Indeed, if you had asked me to list many things that I figured I would be unlikely to see in my lifetime, Chris Cooper rapping would definitely be one of them. And yet, despite that, he pulls it off. Part of it is the absurdity of the scene, part of it is the fact that the gag is as condensed as possible, and part of it is that Cooper throws absolutely everything he has into that bit. There’s no sense of restraint, and no sense that he’s holding anything back. Cooper goes gleefully over-the-top, and has a hell of a time doing it.

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There is an extended version of the song (Let’s Talk About Me) on the soundtrack album, and it provides some much-needed back story for Tex Richman, who doesn’t really seem as fleshed out as he really should be in the final cut of the film. We discover his traumatic childhood and precisely why he hates the Muppets so (er, I mean, “sooooooooooooooo!”), and it does an excellent job setting up a resolution that seems a bit trite in the finished project.

And yet, despite that, the scene works better with the abridged version of the song. The sing-a-long dollar sign is an inspired touch, reminding us that we’re watching some of a musical and – indeed – Let’s Talk About Me might be the best villain-centric song that Disney have produced since Be Prepared in The Lion King. That worked because the use of Nazi imagery in a children’s cartoon caught the audience off-guard. Here, there’s absolutely no indication of what’s coming (to the point where even the other characters seem to have no idea what is going on), and that makes it work all the better.

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As do the nice touches around it. It’s nice that Kermit attempts to resolve the situation through talking. I love how Richman addresses Kermit as “Mr. the Frog”, and Kermit’s own somewhat flustered reaction to the refusal. “You could have just said that,” he responds, an observation that Richman doesn’t even acknowledge. There’s also the hilariously creepy revelation that Richman apparently does this sort of thing often enough that he keeps a staff of chorus girls in a room off his office. I love that brief shot of them going back to whatever they were doing before.

James Bobbit’s work on The Muppets was so superb because it managed to capture the randomness and the unpredictability of the characters, injecting a fantastic amount of raw energy into a family film. It was hilarious, affectionate, clever and sincere – often at the same time. A superb film, and this moment captures just about all those facets.

Check out our other movie moments of 2012:

12. We Built This City (Rock of Ages)

11. September (Intouchables)

10. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper)

09. Throwing the toys together (The Avengers)

08. Running (Shame)

07. “You’d love my boyfriend, he’s a total chick flick nut.” (ParaNorman)

06. The Dark Knight Returns (The Dark Knight Rises)

05. Dancing (Monsieur Lahzar)

04. “… it has its moments …” (Men in Black 3)

03. Missing children (End of Watch)

02. A Shared Pop Culture History (Ted)

01. Chris Cooper raps (The Muppets)

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3 Responses

  1. This rap had me in hysterics. Partially because of fear and worry and the other because it was sheer comic genius. Loved it!

    Brett McKenzie’s work was brilliant. Even if a lot of the songs were VERY Flight of the Conchords, still SO much fun.

    • I agree, but I think the Muppets lend themselves to that Flight of the Conchords sort of self-aware and playful style.

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