Published Nov 23, 2011This is the movie fans of Jim Henson's merry troupe of performing puppets have been hoping for. Under the stewardship of mega-fan and most Muppet-like man in Hollywood, Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother), and writing partner Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshal), this revival harkens back to the meta-humour, wacky shenanigans, larger than life emotions and inflated optimism that made the Muppets so loveable in the first place.
The plot takes into account the Muppets' absence from pop culture for the past decade, and Segel has also built his personal mission to bring back his favourite childhood characters into the tale. Segel plays Gary, whose brother, Walter, happens to be a puppet. Some good gags are derived from a montage watching the two grow up. Walter has a tough time fitting in and when he discovers old reruns of The Muppet Show, he feels a kinship and comfort that turns him into an obsessive super-fan.
Planning a trip to the city for his tenth anniversary with girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), Gary invites Walter to come along to tour the old Muppet Theatre. At the depressing derelict building, Walter overhears the plans of an evil oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) to buy and bulldoze the place to get at the black gold underneath. This spurs Walter, Gary and Mary to track down Kermit the Frog and convince him to get the old gang back together in order to put on a fundraiser to buy back the theatre before the contract expires.
In classic Muppet fashion, characters express their inner feelings in song and dance numbers, most of which work quite well, and even those that don't are fodder for follow-up jokes that sooth the mild discomforts, like hearing Chris Cooper rap or Amy Adams looking like she's going to have a nervous breakdown when it seems she should just be a bit distraught.
Aside from those few songs missing the mark a bit, The Muppets is so packed with clever show-biz jokes and respect for the intelligence of kids, without denying the appeal of silly gags and slapstick, that audience members in possession of goodwill and a funny bone will be smiling ear to ear, when not laughing hysterically.
Packed with cameos from a generation of actors who grew up with the original The Muppet Show, the love for these characters is palpable and will certainly play better to people who were alive in the '80s.
To help younger kids who've likely never considered the timeless romance between a frog and pig get into this world, Disney has included a new Toy Story short before the feature. It's a good fit and will hopefully help this charming re-introduction fan the flames of a new wave of popularity for the Muppets. With the understanding of the spirit of these characters displayed by Segel, Stoller and director James Bobin, let's hope they're steering the ship for the next adventure. .