From Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman. 3 1/2 of 4 stars – go see it!
Movie review: “The Muppets”
It’s time for a new generation to meet the late Jim Henson’s lovably hilarious felt puppets, since they are starring in the best family movie of the year.
The two old grumps in the balcony would probably complain that watching “The Muppets” is a painful experience.
Pay no mind to Statler and Waldorf, even though the big-screen return for the late Jim Henson’s lovable felt creations did make me laugh hard enough and smile wide enough to my cheeks ache.
Both newcomers to the franchise and fans who adored “The Muppet Show” or the best of the previous film outings will be thoroughly charmed by the musical puppets’ latest onscreen adventure.
It may seem a bit silly to deem “The Muppets” one of the most entertaining and vital films of the year, but the movie represents so much more than just another Hollywood reboot of a venerable franchise. Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and their zany pals have always used sophisticated yet innocent humor to entertain, and in these cynical, less-than-civilized times, such wit is more than refreshing. It’s practically revolutionary.
If you’re not a fan of “How I Met Your Mother,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” or any of his other projects, still be a fan of Jason Segel, who spearheaded this cinematic revival for the franchise, which just hasn’t been the same since Henson’s sudden death of pneumonia complications back in 1990. The Muppets haven’t been seen on the silver screen since 1999’s largely ignored “Muppets from Space,” and with the exception of a few well-received YouTube performances, Henson’s creations have mostly remained dormant since becoming part of the Disney empire in 2004.
Until now. Actor Jason Segel, and his collaborators, including director James Bobin, music supervisor Bret McKenzie, alumni of the acclaimed TV show “Flight of the Conchords,” and co-writer Nicholas Stoller, who helmed “Sarah Marshall,” hold nothing back, pouring all their affection and enthusiasm for “The Muppets” into the new movie.
Along with co-writing the script and executive producing the film, Segel plays Gary, an affable but immature denizen of Smalltown, USA, whose younger brother Walter happens to be a Muppet and a huge fan of TV’s “The Muppet Show.” (No, the filmmakers don’t explain how a man has a Muppet for a brother, but that’s par for the course. The Muppets have never elucidated why they mingle freely with humans, and I say we leave it that. After all, I didn’t want to learn how the Force works, either, but thanks to George Lucas’ revisionist tendencies, I can’t unlearn what I have learned, no matter how lame.)
Gary and his girlfriend Mary (three-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams), the town’s popular shop teacher, are planning an exciting 10th anniversary trip to Los Angeles. She is a bit crestfallen when Gary decides to invite Walter along, but still hopes the getaway will include a long-awaited marriage proposal.
Naturally, the first sight Walter wants to see is Muppet Studios, but when the trio gets there, they find that the Muppets have broken up and the theater is crumbling. and all but abandoned. Worse, Walter overhears villainous oil baron Tex Richman (Oscar winner Chris Cooper) plotting to seize the studio, raze it and drill for the recently discovered oil under it. Saving the Muppets old stomping grounds will take $10 million. and someone who cares enough to make it happen. Fortunately, Gary and Walter are just the man and Muppet to mount such a quest.
Along with the reluctant but still game Mary, the brothers Gary and Walter track down Muppet ringleader Kermit the Frog, who has forlornly shut himself away in a Bel-Air mansion. Kermit knows that the only way the Muppets can raise $10 million is to put on a show. which means getting the band back together, so to speak.
It won’t be easy because the Muppets have gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a cut-rate and cutthroat Reno tribute band called the Moopets, Animal is seeking treatment in an anger-management clinic for the stars, Gonzo has become a well-off plumbing magnate, and Miss Piggy is the successful plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris.
Plus, Kermit, Walter, Gary and Mary face the challenge of getting their fundraising show televised, but when a high-powered executive (Rashida Jones) desperately needs to fill a timeslot, she is willing to give the Muppets a chance, even though she feels the world has become too jaded to care about them anymore.
Thankfully, the Muppets are still performed by actual puppeteers and haven’t been replaced by computer-generated effects.
The new movie not only nails The Muppets’ sense of humor, it also captures their effervescent musical spirit, especially on the irresistibly catchy theme “Life’s a Happy Song.” Even the inclusion of Starship’s irritatingly ubiquitous ‘80s hit “We Built This City” can’t diminish the nostalgic thrill of revisiting old favorites “Rainbow Connection” and “Mah Na Mah Na,” the emotional weight of Kermit’s regret-tinged ballad “Pictures in My Head” and the sheer hilarity of the new Muppet Barbershop Quartet rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” featuring Beaker’s familiar “mee meeps.” The existential ode “Man or Muppet” includes the best of the film’s many star cameos. which I wouldn’t dream of spoiling.
Although the movie’s villain isn’t developed enough and the horde of fuzzy characters becomes a bit overwhelming, “The Muppets” doesn’t just coast on sentimentality or familiarity. It’s time for a new generation to meet the Muppets, since they are starring in the best family movie of the year.
Even better, “The Muppets” come with a fun “Toy Story” short film called “Small Fry.”