Cert: U Runtime: 103 mins Director: James Bobin Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Steve Whitmier, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Ken Jeong, Emily Blunt, Jack Black and Zach Galifianakis
Kermit, you’re my hero. You’re on my watch
The Oscar winning Muppets has been a box office smash this month, a new generation of fans have met Kermit and Co and are singing Rainbow Connection. When 3 muppet fans learn that Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) wants to drill under the muppet theater for oil Gary (Jason Segel), Mary (Amy Adams) and Walter (Peter Linz) set out to find the muppets who have been split up for years so that they can put on one last show and save the muppet theater. Kermit now lives in his own mansion depressed in Hollywood, Gonzo is a high class plumber at Gonzo’s Royal Flush, Fozzie performs with a tribute band called The Moopets , Miss Piggy is the plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, and Animal is at a celebrity anger management rehab center in Santa Barbara.
“The Muppets” is one of the most gleefully smashing movies of 2012. It’s one of those pictures that is not only charming and clever, but does not smugly rub its accolades into the faces of the audience, so that they may just sit back and enjoy the show. Watching the picture with a cinema full of people from all ages and joining in with the unanimous laughter and cheers and shameless ear-to-ear grins was one of the great experiences that I have had in a movie theater. It’s like one of those classic Broadway shows where even though you’ve seen it a dozen times and have a general idea of what to expect, you get never tired of. I personally loathe the idea of the Muppets ever disappearing from the screen. But never fear, this movie is proof that is not about to happen any time soon.What also makes “The Muppets” such a great movie-going time is the way it kids around with itself, with the characters acknowledging plot points and mentioning the budget of the movie. Furthermore, it makes great moments in drawing in celebrities such as Whoopie Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Alan Arkin, and Jack Black (who steals all of these cameos in some of the most hilarious moments of his up-and-down career) for appearances that are not mere throw-aways. Cap onto that some wonderfully ear-worm musical pieces. Three of the classic Muppets songs are reused; the rest are brand-new. The opening number is particularly good, reminding me of the musical-comedies of Hollywood’s golden era. The best and most funny of them being when Walter and Gary are duo-singing “Man or Muppet” along with reflections in the mirror. The gag is that the reflection is a character who is the opposite of what they are.
The first half of the movie spends the appropriate amount of time collecting all of our beloved characters. The movie devotes enough space to each and every one of the primary characters so that they don’t feel like just points pushing the plot further along. The second half of the movie is where it really, really gets good. It is completely devoted to the revival of the Muppet show, in which they try new tactics and also reuse the familiar but never tiring gags that they have done for decades. Here the movie really scores strongly by diving right into the hearts of the audience. Just watching the performances by the Muppets was soul-lifting; it was like being a kid once again, watching early-morning shows on the weekend or before school, as I did a lot growing up. Simultaneously, the movie works with a ‘struggle for success’ kind of suspense plot and frankly, waiting to see if the Muppets will succeed or fail in saving their studio (and the results may surprise you!) is much more intense than seeing which side of Michael Bay’s frighteningly personality-devoid robot-armies will triumph over the other, or whether at least one empty-headed college kid will survive getting gobbled up by a shark. I really do not want to give away the ending, but I will say this much. It reminded me a lot of the ending of the underrated classic “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” which also found just the right note about the difference between success, failure, and the importance of never giving up.
What do I mean, exactly? Well, rather than give it away, I’ll let you go see the movie.1It is a wonderful thing to be surprised by movies, but it is even more glorious to go in with high expectations to have them all met to the hilt. “The Muppets” is one of those movies. Hollywood has made countless revivals, spin-offs, and remakes in recent years and some of them have felt absolutely unnecessary and tiring, but not this movie. This is a revival that deserves to go on and on. And it is so clever and smart and charming with the way it handles itself that it deserves to be seen by people of all ages, regardless of how much or little they know about the Muppets or their creator, the late Jim Henson. But whether you are a longtime devotee or newcomer, this new “The Muppets” will leave you hungry for more.There is also a key moment midway through the movie, when a TV producer is describing to the Muppets their on-air competition: the violence and pseudo-hip garbage that children have been flooded with. And in the end, the scene proves to be a commentary on an element of American culture today and reminds kids and parents that something like this is more pure and important in a child’s life than what they usually find on the television today. And there is still magic to be found at the movies.