The Muppets Are Back, Kicking Felt and Taking Names
The latest Muppet movie, creatively titled The Muppets, wears its nostalgia and self-awareness the way Captain Kirk wears his rank insignia: as a badge of honor and on its sleeve.
The movie follows Gary (Jason Segel - who also co-wrote the movie) and Walter (voiced by Peter Linz), as well as Gary's girlfriend of ten years, Mary (Amy Adams). On vacation to Los Angeles, they take a tour of the old Muppet Studio an find that it's gone into terrible disrepair. Walter learns that an oil tycoon named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to tear down the old Muppet theater in order to get to the oil that he's been told lies beneath. Walter, Gary and Mary find Kermit the Frog and they all go on a whirl-wind adventure to put together the old gang in order to put on one more show to raise the money to buy back the theater and keep it from being destroyed.
After such a long wait since the last Muppet movie, it's easy to wonder if maybe the world has moved beyond wanting an entire movie made up of very cute pieces of felt and foam brought to life by some of the best hand flappers in the business. And one of the things that really works for this movie is that they don't even try to avoid that topic. Once the gang is brought back together and trying to get a network to put their telethon on the air, they are told quite outright that they are no longer relevant. People remember them fondly, but their form of sweet and happy entertainment is not what sells today.
But despite the perception that the world has moved on, the Muppet gang intends to prove that wholesome entertainment is not dead, and neither is the Muppet brand.
Personally, I loved the movie. Once you can accept the concept of Muppets existing in the real world, along with the zaniness that entails, the movie actually takes a rather realistic approach to the story. Jason Segel plays his role with great innocence and real zeal for his mission to save the Muppet theater. However, that ends up causing a few problems between him and his girlfriend. They don't gloss over real-world consequences the way some kids movies attempt to. It comes to a head in a way not unlike how we may see in a film for adults.
And make no mistake. This film is for adults too. It's for those adults who fondly remember the Muppets from their younger years. It's for those adults who simply like good, clean fun that everyone in the family can enjoy, not just sit through.
And it's also always nice to get video proof that Mickey Rooney is still alive.
The songs by Bret McKenzie (from Flight of the Conchords) are catchy, funny and poignant. The film's enthusiasm is infectious. The jokes are, in typical Muppet fashion, self-referential and off-the-wall. The celebrity cameos are coming at you left and right.
And, more importantly, this movie shows that, despite today's tendency for shows like "Punch Teacher" to become popular, there's still a real audience for good-old chickens clucking to a popular song of today or a purple weirdo swinging a bowling ball at a terrified celebrity guest host.
And you've got to see their barber shop rendition of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
I really don't want to spoil this one by over-hyping it, but for me, it gets a 9 / 10.
The Muppets is rated PG for a couple moments of mildly rude humor.