The last big Muppet movie we had was in 1999 when we learned that Gonzo was an alien in Muppets From Space. Since then there’s been a few television specials, but nothing as big as The Muppets. In a way, it’s perfect, because actor Jason Segel with his genuine love for Jim Henson’s creations was able to bring Kermit and the gang back to the big screen by building upon our fond memories of the Muppets. The Muppets is a love letter to a bygone era of family entertainment. Disney, who has been rediscovering their roots these past few years – returning to hand-drawn animation and bringing characters back to the big screen like Winnie the Pooh – are the perfect studio to revisit what we loved about the Muppets in the first place. So, Segel and Disney teamed up to bring us not just one of the best family movies of the year, but in all seriousness, one of the best movies of the year.
Gary (Segel) has a little brother named Walter, who’s a puppet. Like all Muppet movies humans and felt beings live together without thinking that it’s even the least bit weird. It’s all part of the fun. Walter, at an early age, becomes obsessed with the Muppets and The Muppet Show. He dreams of one day, becoming a Muppet and fulfilling his dream.
Gary is dating Mary (Amy Adams). They’ve been together for years, and have decided to travel to Los Angeles for their anniversary. Although, Gary plans on taking Walter with them so they can all visit The Muppet Studios. When they get there they find that the studios are rundown and an evil oil baron is about to buy up the land and tear everything down.
Like so many other Muppet movies that have gone before The Muppets contains heaps of satire without ever being mean. It’s clear that Segel has a real love for these characters and knows how they operate. He throws in a bit of modern day humor to keep everyone interested, but for the most part “The Muppets” is just that, classic Muppets.
Similar in story to The Muppets Take Manhattan, Kermit is tasked with getting the old gang back together. They’ve been spread all over the country, but they’ve got to put on one last show to save the studios before they’re torn down.
It’s a simple premise, but we expect that. What’s really the treat here is the fresh facelift that’s been given to these beloved characters. It never feels as cheap as “Muppets From Space” felt. It feels like a sincere love letter to the fans who have stuck by the Muppets throughout the years.
For anyone who remembers the puppet opera at the end of Forgetting Sarah Marshall understands the love that Segel has for Muppets in general. Likewise, if you can remember the songs he wrote for that puppet musical you’ll be automatically attracted to this movie. Each song here is full of life, sung with smiles, and has just the right mix of humor to keep everyone laughing. Bret McKenzie, from the band Flight of the Conchords, had a role as music supervisor on the movie. There’s one song in particular where fans of the Conchords will notice a heavy Bret McKenzie influence on the lyrics. It also happens to be one of the best musical numbers of the entire movie.
In the end though, The Muppets is fun in its purest form. It’s almost impossible to watch it without a sappy grin spreading ear to ear.