- Running time:
- 98 minutes
- Jason Segel -
- Amy Adams -
- Chris Cooper -
- Tex Richman
- Rashida Jones -
- CDE Executive
- Alan Arkin -
- Tour Guide
Gary (Jason Segel) and his muppet brother Walter are happy residents of Smalltown, USA, where Gary romances his schoolteacher sweetheart Mary (Amy Adams). When all three decide to take a trip to Hollywood, Mary hopes that Gary will finally propose, while Walter wants to meet his idols—Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and the rest of The Muppets. But the Muppet gang has separated and scattered around the world, and greedy Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to demolish their old studio to drill for oil. Suddenly it’s up to Gary, Mary and Walter to help the Muppets reunite and recapture their old magic.
The buzz: Beloved since the ‘70s heyday of “The Muppet Show” and “The Muppet Movie,” Jim Henson’s optimistic wisecrackers haven’t been seen on the big screen since 1999’s “Muppets from Space.” Segel, a real life superfan, got behind this comeback project, committing to star and collaborate on the script with his “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” co-writer Nicholas Stoller. Despite their adult comedy background—shared by director James Bobin of HBO cult favorites “Da Ali G Show” and “Flight of the Conchords”—they’ve remained reverent to the family-friendly spirit of Henson.
The verdict: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and it turns out the movie world has been a lesser place without the Muppets. “The Muppets” knows that and makes sure we know it too with a savvy, sincere story about the enduring powers of friendship and feel good entertainment. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer, this is a Muppet movie for all ages and backgrounds—full of charm, warm humor and an infectiously positive spirit. It’s sweet (you want these characters to succeed) and simple (you never doubt they will), with surprises coming from left-field jokes, sudden celebrity cameos and spontaneous musical numbers rather than any radical subversion of expectations or unforeseen twists in the plot. All those good intentions wouldn’t get very far without the right people to execute them, and “The Muppets” stacks the deck both behind and in front of the camera. Segel and Adams prove to be perfectly matched as idealized romantics and their Muppet co-stars have lost none of their appeal over the years. The wealth of talent is sometimes too much for the movie to balance—Adams’ role is delightful but never quite juicy enough for a three-time Oscar nominee, and you may wish your favorite Muppet was allowed a little more screen time (I wanted more for Gonzo, while Miss Piggy’s arc strategically makes the most of limited scenes). The goal here is to make room for everyone, but stalwarts Kermit and Fozzie get a little more than most. One of the film’s biggest risks is adding a new Muppet to the mix, but wide-eyed Walter bridges the gap between man and Muppet with a natural likeability that makes him easy to accept and root for. Segel and Stoller’s affectionate script and first-time feature helmer Bobin’s nimble direction incorporates nostalgic nods to the Muppets’ past work with a pervasive playfulness and grand musical numbers, including several cheerful original songs from Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie. His sunny ditty “Life’s a Happy Song” emerges as the film’s anthem and mission statement—and there’s no doubting the truth of its title, at least while you’re watching “The Muppets.”
Did you know? The choreographer behind the movie’s elaborate dance numbers is Michael Rooney—son of Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, who himself appears in a cameo during an early song-and-dance sequence.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
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