As a Hollywood production, The Muppets embodies all that is truly great about childhood, as they represent innocence, joy and pure-hearted fun that isn’t weighed down by an industry that has seemingly abandoned its values in order to make a profit. It is therefore ironic that a return to these values comes in the form of The Muppets, one of the most successful and iconic trademarks of all-time from the industry giant that is Disney.
The Muppets puts all these values into a film that is both accessible and thoroughly delightful for its audience. It is deeply sincere in its morals and the messages it stands for, as it harkens back to the Muppets’ heyday, before creator Jim Henson’s untimely death in 1990. That being said, it should come as little surprise this film can instill so much nostalgia, as it is a passion project from the Forgetting Sarah Marshall team, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, who wrote The Muppets over a four-year span. The passion shows as they took their own love for Henson’s creation to make a film that is simultaneously a delightful and upbeat film, while serving as a bittersweet cautionary tale of the state of the industry we all love so much.
The story is pretty straightforward; Jason Segel plays Gary, a grownup man-child who lives with his brother, Walter, who just happens to be a small muppet himself. Together they live in Smalltown, USA, where Gary’s girlfriend of 10 years, Mary (Amy Adams), works as a school teacher. For their ten year anniversary, Gary and Mary decide to visit Los Angeles and Walter tags along to fulfill his life-long dream of visiting the Muppets museum. When Gary, Mary and Walter arrive in LA to find the Muppets museum run-down and empty, they discover the plans of oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who schemes to tear down the museum after he finds oil underneath the facilities. Now their only hope to save this beloved museum, as well as the Muppets name, is to raise $10 million. The best way to do this? Find Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang in order to put on one massive show to raise the funds they need. One problem: as a television exec (Rashida Jones) puts it, the Muppets simply aren’t famous anymore.
So Walter, Gary and Mary set out to do the impossible: reunite the Muppets after years apart and put on a telethon before the looming deadline to raise the funds needed to save the Muppets name. Yes, the plot isn’t anything too new or remarkable, let alone realistic, but at least the movie doesn’t shy away from these facts. Instead, it isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself. What it really comes down to is what’s at the heart of this film: innocence, wonder, happiness, love, good-natured fun, knowing that anything is possible, and ultimately, the idea that whatever your place in life, you can always find your way home.
Director James Bobin brought on his Flight of the Conchords star Bret Mackenzie to write many of the songs featured throughout the movie, all of which are almost unanimously excellent, fun and delightful. From original pieces such as “Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?” to adaptations of songs like Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You,” as clucked by a group of chickens, or Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” performed by a barbershop quartet, to old classics like “Rainbow Connection,” the songs never cease to delight or surprise. The numerous cameo performances and appearances are equally excellent, as they are unveiled in droves throughout the film in varying roles, from stars playing themselves to hilarious characters like “Hobo Joe.”
Everything about The Muppets is delightful, charming and downright funny, while also having a very sweet and tender side, as the film delivers a strong and meaningful message to its audience. Lest I spoil the fun for all, I’ll save the surprises for the movie itself, but do know that whether you’ve been a life-long Muppets fan or are new to these characters, you’re in for a treat! The Muppets serves as a nostalgic and meaningful romp, as Segel, Stoller and Bobin represent the best they remember from growing up with these beloved characters and all that they stand for.
Rated: PG (For some mild rude humor.)
The Muppets opens nationwide November 23, 2011.