Just as The Muppet Show was all about friendships and dreams, musicals numbers and surprising celebrity co-hosts/cameos, so is this latest Muppet movie. The film's soundtrack includes some of the most beloved Muppet songs as well as new tunes from Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords), and crazy, catchy dance numbers fit snuggly within the film's simple plot.
Co-written by and starring lifelong Muppets fan Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), The Muppets is a nostalgia-overload for fans of the old TV show. Kermit the Frog still tries to be the voice of reason among his crazy felt-covered brethren, Miss Piggy is still the most diva-ish pig to ever grace the small or big screen, and Fozzie Bear continues to wocka wocka his way through stand-up routines as Kermie's BFF. The Muppets also features Gonzo (what is he???), Rowlf, the Swedish Chef, Dr Bunsen Honeydew and his bumbling assistant, Beaker, and Animal. And the film introduces a new Muppet named Walter (performed by Peter Linz) who has gone through life among humans (Segel plays his brother, Gary) and is the Muppets number one fan.
Walter doesn't grow like other children and he doesn't really fit in, but with his big brother Gary by his side, he's a pretty happy guy. And when Gary and his perky girlfriend, Mary (played by a hyper-perky Amy Adams), head off to LA to celebrate their 10 year anniversary as a couple, Walter's invited along to see the old Muppet Studios. But once they actually get to the studio, they discover it's abandoned, with the buildings falling apart and the property on the verge of being purchased by the super wealthy Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). Although he says he's going to turn it into a Muppets museum, he's actually planning on tearing it down to get to the oil underneath Kermit's office. Insert evil laugh here.
Walter overhears Tex's real plan and convinces Gary and Mary that they must find Kermit and tell him the truth. After a little frog arm-twisting and a sweet song with Kermie reminiscing about his old buddies, Kermit gets on board and they take off to reunite the Muppets to put on a benefit in order to save the theater. Using 'map' as a method to travel the world, Kermit convinces Fozzie to leave his gig as the lead singer of a Muppets tribute band named the Moopets performing at a dive bar in Reno. He also talks Miss Piggy into putting her high-powered job as the plus-size editor for French Vogue (where she has The Devil Wears Prada's Emily Blunt as her secretary) on hold, and gets Animal out of rehab where he's dealing with anger issues (and has Jack Black as his sponsor) to help save the Muppet Theater.
The Bottom Line:
Of course, not all of the old Muppet voices are back with this 2011 feature film and although their replacements do a fine job, it's still just a little sad that the voices aren't exactly the same. As for the human stars, Segel has said this is the film he's most proud of and you can see his affection for the Muppets written all over his face the entire film. He's in heaven playing opposite Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the gang, and so even though we could have used with a little less Segel and a little more Kermit and Miss Piggy, we'll cut him some slack. His script, co-written with fellow Muppet lover Nicholas Stoller, oozes with love for all things Muppets. From the lavish, outlandish musical numbers celebrating each person's uniqueness to the inclusion of all sorts of celebrity cameos sprinkled throughout, The Muppets revives the hibernating franchise with a fresh, fun story that pays tribute to the past while providing a jolt of energy to Jim Henson's creation and bringing it forward into 2011.
There's a little something for every age group in The Muppets, although more for the adults who are familiar with the franchise than for the kids. Still, younger audience members should quickly catch on to what The Muppets is all about. And for those of us who have been - like Segel - lifelong Muppets fans, watching The Muppets is like getting a big, warm hug from friends who've been away far too long. Now if only they could have cut out Chris Cooper's rap number...
The Muppets was directed by James Bobin and is rated PG for some mild rude humor.
Theatrical Release: November 23, 2011
Also of Interest: Top 10 Comedies of 2011