Once upon a time, The Muppets were a Big Thing. Those days are gone and The Muppet studios are not only in ruins, but a nasty oil baron wants to tear down the building and dig for oil! What are you gonna do? Put on a show, of course!
In a world of dark, twisted, cynical movies, today we are blessed with three absolutely delightful, innocent, happy movies [see my reviews for Arthur Christmas and Hugo elsewhere] that are fun for whole family. In this case, the life affirming joy that is The Muppets.
Gary [Jason Segal] and Walter [voiced by Peter Linz] – his adopted brother of the felt persuasion, live in Smalltown, USA, where they do almost everything together… which is occasionally a bit trying for Gary’s girlfriend of ten years, Mary [Amy Adams].
To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Gary decides to take Mary to Los Angeles – a place she’s always wanted to visit. As usual, though, he also wants to bring Walter, who gets faint at just the thought of taking the tour of The Muppet Studios.
While on said tour, Walter sneaks into Kermit the Frog’s old office and accidentally overhears Tex Richman [Chris Cooper] reveal his fiendish plan to take over the property, tear down the studio and dig for oil. Distraught, Walter seeks advice from Gary and they decide to find Kermit [voiced by Steve Whitmire] and try to get The Muppets back together. Maybe they can put on a show to raise the ten million dollars they need to buy the property and thwart the evil Richman.
Things do not go as planned – as network boss Veronica [Rashida Jones] explains, ‘You’re not famous anymore.’
The Muppets have scattered to the four winds: Fozzie [Eric Jacobson] is part of a Muppets tribute band in Reno; Miss Piggy [also Jacobson] is plus-size editor for French Vogue; Gonzo [Dave Goelz] is a plumbing magnate, and so on. Even if they get back together, they only have a few days to whip the decrepit studio back into shape, find a network to air their show, and put the show together.
The majority of The Muppets’ ninety-eight minute running time wanders around the plot riffing on the situation, singing songs joyful and poignant, and creating havoc in the way that only The Muppets can. It’s a low-tech excursion into a world where corn and heart come together to yield beauty – and it works as only The Muppets can.
The Muppets is filled with cameos from celebrities old and new – from Mickey Rooney and Alan Arkin to Zach Galifianakis and Jim Parsons – and makes splendid use of all of them [Neil Patrick has the best cameo line – and that’s all I’m saying about that]. The new songs, courtesy of Bret McKenzie [Flight of the Conchords], fit seamlessly into the Muppets’ world, standing alongside classic tunes like Rainbow Connection.
James Bobin [The Flight of the Conchords] take the happy chaos of the Segal/Nicholas Stoller [Get Him to the Greek] script and delivers a movie that balances moments of sly sophistication [Richman’s ‘maniacal laugh’], glorious silliness [Fozzie’s special shoes] and poignancy [Man or Muppet] in a manner that is, like The Muppets themselves, unique.
Perhaps my opinion of The Muppets is colored by having been a fan since long before The Muppet Show, but I laughed a lot and teared up a lot [many napkins died – and not in service to the ravages of greasy popcorn and burger condiments] – enough that I can’t give the film any other grade than…
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Photos by Patrick Wymore and Scott Garfield/courtesy of Walt Disney Studios