Delightfully crafted and hilariously self-reverential, Disney’s The Muppets is a little bundle of unadulterated joy at the movies that will satisfy audiences of all age. In an era of computer animation, 3-D and reality trash TV, Kermit and his gang aim straight for the heart by creating a contagiously funny, moving and plain wonderful cinematic experience that is likely to revive their popularity more than five decades after their inception. Seriously, this is easily the sweetest, happiest movie of the year.
Jason Segel stars as Gary, a small-town guy whose Muppet-looking brother Walter (Peter Linz) has been raised as a human with no questions asked. Gary is planning a trip to Los Angeles with his schoolteacher girlfriend of ten years, Mary (Amy Adams) and decides to bring Walter along so he can realize his life-long dream of touring the Muppet studios. What they find however is a broken-down, cobweb-covered lot that leaves the trio terribly disappointed. Worse, Walter overhears a greedy oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) plotting to tear down the crumbling studio, leaving them no choice but to embark on a journey to re-unite the long forgotten Muppets for one final show so as to raise the $10 million needed to save the day.
Director James Bobin has lovingly crafted a musical comedy filled with irreverent in-jokes, funny cameos and infectiously joyful musical numbers. Forget about crude humor and lame hipster wisecracks, The Muppets is a sweet and heartwarming movie with a refreshing amount of innocence and nostalgia. Kermit says several times that laughter is the third-greatest gift ever, after children and ice cream and it certainly looks like he is onto something. This is pure unadulterated wacky fun that will leave you with a big grin on your face. The movie often winks at its own silliness in such a delightful way and the cameos are pitch-perfect with actors such as Jack Black, Zach Galifianakis, Rashida Jones and Emily Blunt playing it completely straight to hilarious effect.
The musical set-pieces are the heart of the film and are one highlight after another, ranging from Amy Adams and Miss Peggy performing “Me Party” to the entire population of Smalltown singing and dancing to “Life’s a Happy Song.” The witty original songs by Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords fame) leave a lasting impression and so does Kermit reprising “The Rainbow Connection”. Expect a song or two to be in contention for an Oscar next February.
The affable Jason Segel (who also co-wrote) is charmingly over-the-top as Gary and the adorable Amy Adams is winningly cheerful, a perfect fit for the role of Mary as seen by her similar work in Enchanted. As the antagonist, Chris Cooper is deviously funny, launching into an impromptu rap song and saying “maniacal laugh” when he is overly satisfied with his evil self. And one shouldn’t omit the excellent voice work by Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, and Dave Goelz, among many others.
Some things never change and this movie resonates with uplifting lessons about kindness, reveling in oneself and believing in others. Despite a small misstep near the end (Walter suddenly discovering a hidden talent), The Muppets is an honest-to-goodness family film that will appeal to nostalgic viewers who grew up watching the show while also pleasing a new generation that may have never heard of Kermit and his friends. One of the underlying thread of the movie is the Muppets’ fear that time has passed them by, that they have become irrelevant in this cynical world of ours. Bobin and Segel prove with this lovable gem that the venerable cloth puppets have nothing to fear.
Notes: Watch out for the Toy Story short attached to this movie.