I saw The Muppets with two of my many progeny. I enjoyed it a lot more than they did, but they still loved it.
Here’s a preview:
Released November 23, 2011
Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (characters by Jim Henson)
Directed by James Bobin
Starring: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear, Gonzo, Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Peter Linz, and all the Muppets
* * * * *
The Muppets is a nostalgic, fun, innocent, intelligently self-aware return to form for our fine, felt friends. Those who grew up with the Muppets will probably love this new movie more than today’s kids will, but hopefully this is the beginning of a resurgence of the smartly written, pop-satirical group of fuzzy puppets.
The story begins with two lovebirds, Gary and Mary, played respectively by Segel and Adams, planning their life together. Gary has a Muppet named Walter, voiced by Linz, as a younger brother. We can assume he’s adopted.
Gary and Mary want to take a vacation together, mostly because Gary loves Mary and Mary wants Gary to have a life outside of his relationship with Walter. She doesn’t dislike Walter, but she clearly would like to have a more intimate relationship (emotionally intimate, you gutter-minds!) with the sometimes clueless Gary. Gary, remember he’s clueless, invites Walter along and Mary can’t say no. Because she’s kind and loves Gary.
Walter learned a while back that he had something in common with a group of performers called the Muppets who had a fabulous TV show years ago. He idolizes them, Kermit especially. So when the vacation takes the trio to Los Angeles, he convinces Gary and Mary to visit the old Muppet Playhouse. It’s in ruins and is about to revert ownership to a wicked oil tycoon played by Chris Cooper. This tycoon, called Tex Richman (yep), knows there’s oil under the old playhouse and he plans to raze it and make more money.
Walter finds out about this plan and sets into motion a reunion of the Muppets so they can take back their playhouse and rekindle the magic of their old show and glory. They need to raise $10 million.
Add to this major plot line the story of two humans who are in love but have to find a way to communicate honestly. Add to all of that some truly wonderful songs, excellent set-pieces, fabulously funny dialogue, and you have a really entertaining film.
The Muppets is a winner from the get-go. With “Life’s a Happy Song” the opening musical number, you know you’re in for a cynicism-free joyride, emphasis on the ‘joy.’ The old and wonderful subversive satire is there in full-force, with great pop-culture references followed by digs at greedy corporations followed by hilarious irony.
What’s particularly effective is the sequence that follows the gathering up of major Muppets from their lives that they found after the old show was cancelled. Gonzo, hilariously, is wealthy, and Fozzy is playing with a tribute band. Piggy, well, you should just watch it.
The entire thing is so entertaining because it’s grounded in absurdism, knows perfectly well that felt critters don’t really live amongst humans but why not act like they do? and it never for a moment takes itself seriously. Then you have great character arcs, fearless performances by all the live actors, despite a rather icky rap by Chris Cooper, an engaging story, and a very nice rekindling of the love between Piggy and Kermit.
The voice talent is also only slightly recognizable as different from the original voices for many of these beloved Muppet characters.
“Life’s a Happy Song” should win the Oscar for best song. This movie should be up for best film, in place of The Descendants.
Content warnings: None except for some Muppet-level edginess.
Writing: 4.5 Acting: 4.5 Overall: 4.5
Don’t believe me? See if my review matches those on Rotten Tomatoes.
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