What is there to say about the Muppets? Jim Henson’s famous puppets have found a place in the hearts of millions since their inception, and have found their way to the silver screen a few times as well. In spite of no major media appearances for the better part of a decade, to say nothing of close to a generation that has grown up without them, the Muppets remain one of the most beloved media franchises of all time, so it makes no surprise that in this age of reboots, the Muppets get their own.
Beginning with a string of false trailers parodying everything from almost any chick flick from the last decade to a rather funny Green Lantern parody, I was actually interested in seeing the film, and not just because I am a sucker for nostalgia, to say nothing of having been raised on Muppet movies as a child. I will admit I had certain apprehensions about having the ever-upbeat and light-hearted Muppets have a movie handled by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, a duo whose resumes are made up almost entirely of R-rated crude comedies and Judd Apatow films. Nonetheless, it wasn’t enough to scare me off, and I was off to the movies.
So is The Muppets the triumphant return of Kermit and friends or did these puppets get tangled in their own strings? Read on for my review of The Muppets!
The story focuses on brothers Walter and Gary, both avid Muppets fans, the former a Muppet himself, the latter played by Jason Segel. After being invited to Los Angeles with Gary (much to the dismay of his girlfriend Mary, played by Amy Adams, as the trip was for their tenth anniversary), Walter is dismayed to find out that not only is Muppet Studios a rundown shanty-town, but is due to be torn down by ruthless businessman Tex Richman so it can be the site of an oil refinery. Now united by a mission, the trio works to reunite the Muppets and put together a telethon to raise ten million dollars so they can buy back the studio. While a tad cliche on paper, rest assured it’s a joy to see in action, and the story manages some surprises at times.
Of course, there is little doubt in my mind a good part of that joy comes from the cast, and rest assured, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and all the rest are represented faithfully and are as endearing and funny as ever, and new Muppet Walter has no issue earning a spot next to his forerunners. In addition, the human cast is just as enjoyable, with Jason Segel more than able to deliver some laughs, Amy Adams as irresistibly likable and sunny as ever, and cameos from Jack Black to Dave Grohl mixing things up even further. As a whole, the cast, whether plush puppets or flesh and bone, is always funny and likable, and the mood is very infectious.
Best of all however was the humor, which was a nice mixture of slapstick and gag jokes, meta-humor and pop culture references, and even hosting several catchy song and dance numbers that range from Muppet classics like ‘Rainbow Connection’ to a barbershop quartet cover of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ that left me in stitches. Muppets manages to be very tongue in cheek at times, including repeatedly breaking of the fourth wall, and manges to be one of the smarter comedies this year. It feels like its been ages since I’ve seen a film this funny that manages to be clean, smart, and self-aware all at the same time. Also, for those of you like myself who feared how Segel might handle Henson’s creations, let your fears be forgotten, as the subject matter is given a level of reverent sentimentality that any would-be reboot or remake would do well to take note of.
In the end, what can I say about The Muppets? Almost everything about the movie is done perfectly, it’s subject matter handled lovingly, and it remains good natured through and through. It’s side-splittingly funny, nicely nostalgic while remaining fresh, and leaves you with a genuinely good feeling and a smile to boot. It’s far the best comedy I’ve seen this year (Sorry Paul), and one of the few films I can say has that rare universal appeal and is a blast for film goers young and old. It will win over new fans, delight the old ones and provide some smiles and laughs along the way.
I give The Muppets my highest recommendations, and if any of you have had your fill of pumpkin pie and Black Friday sales this weekend, I cannot urge you enough to make a trip to the cinema and pay Kermit and the gang a view, you won’t regret it.