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Nov262011

'The Muppets' review - A good time for Muppet fans of all ages

When I was young, The Muppets were already a fixture in the entertainment world. It takes a lot of effort to dislike Jim Henson’s Muppets. They’ve always been fantastic family entertainment with that faint edginess to them so the adults enjoy themselves just as much as the kids. I’m happy to report that the formula that made the Muppets so successful is back. After a decade of starring in hit or miss Web videos and lame TV specials, the Muppets have been revived again thanks to Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller, and two of the guys who brought you Flight of the Conchords: Bret McKenzie and James Bobin. 

If you’ve seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you already know that Jason Segel has a fondness for the Muppets. In the film, which Segel wrote, he plays a man who writes and stars in his own puppet musical. Thanks to the success of Sarah Marshall and a successful pitch to Disney, Segel is living out a similar dream: he stars in and has written his very own Muppet movie.

The plot is simple and cheesy, but with a self awareness and willingness to break the fourth wall that you can only find in a Muppet movie (or maybe Wayne’s World). As the story goes, the Muppets have been broken up for years. Kermit is now a hermit in his mansion and everyone else has gone their separate ways, with varying degrees of success. Muppets like Fozzy have fallen on hard times. He now performs with the Moopets, a Muppet immitation band with Dave Grohl on drums and one ugly Miss Poogy. Things aren’t great for the Muppets. They are forgotten—a relic of the past. 

The Muppets are so dated that their studio has fallen into ruin. Not even tourists want to check it out anymore. This is where Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (Peter Linz) come in. Walter and Gary have been best friends since they were kids, but after, oh, about age five, Gary began to outgrow Walter. Not metaphorically, but physically. You see, Walter is a Muppet. He’s never quite fit in to our human world, but his love of Kermit, Gonzo, and the gang has always kept him going. Anyway, while on a tour of the decrepit studio with Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), Walter overhears an oil tycoon named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) explaining his plans to destroy the old Muppet studios and drill oil in the middle of Los Angeles. The only way the studio can be saved: the Muppets have to ruinite and raise $10 million by putting on one awesome show. Sounds like a good idea to me.

The old Jim Henson sense of humor is back and stronger than ever with enough goofy humor and modern pop culture to keep the kids going and a ton of clean adult jokes and nostalgic references that Muppet fans of any age will have fun with. Guest stars like Jack Black and Alan Arkin are packed into every scene, but few are more than eye candy. A favorite of mine is Zack Galifianakis as Hobo Joe.

The music is pretty good and decently funny upon first listen, likely due to the direction of Bret McKenzie, who you may know from Flight of the Conchords. One song in particular, about dealing with being a Muppet of a man or a man of a Muppet, has a particular Conchords vibe to it and is one of the best numbers in the film.

I can’t say that The Muppets is the absolute best Muppet movie I’ve ever seen or that it’s the best Muppet movie it could have been (there are a few moments that fail to deliver), but it’s a great time at the movies. You can’t get much better than the Muppets. They’re adorable good fun.

Rating:  (Good)

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