Review of The Muppets


Movie Review: "The Muppets"

--Rating: R (occasional mild rude humor)
Release Date: November 23, 2011
Directed by: James Bobin
Genre: Comedy / Family

"The Muppets" is the rare family movie that the adults may enjoy more than the children. Though it aims to introduce the Muppet clan to a new audience, nostalgia will get adults to watch even if they don't have children.

Jason Segal stars as Gary, a man who lives with a Muppet named Walter. They grew up together and consider themselves brothers despite the fact that they are obviously not. Though their bond is very deep, Walter still feels a little displaced in his human world.

Gary has a devoted though somewhat frustrated girlfriend named Mary (Amy Adams) who is ready to take their relationship to the next level. Sweet, clueless Gary has no idea that she feels this way. He invites Walter at the last minute to come with him and Mary on a planned trip to Los Angeles. Though taken aback and not completely thrilled about the idea, Mary nods and agrees Walter should go with them.

The plot ramps up once the trio hits Hollywood. They visit the long-abandoned Muppet Theater and find out that wealthy oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to buy it. Richman wants to destroy the theater to drill for oil. They make a decision to come up with the $10 million it would take to prevent the sale. In true Muppet fashion, it is decided that putting on a big fundraising show with the original gang is the fastest way to get the money.

The problem with this plan is that the gang split up a long time ago. Kermit lives in seclusion in the Hollywood Hills, Miss Piggy went on to become the editor of Paris Vogue and Foozie is the leader of the parody group The Moopets. After much convincing, Kermit decides to make a go of the show and the four hop into his Rolls Royce to gather the rest of the gang.

The movie is interspersed with lots of crowd-pleasing musical numbers including the Muppet classic Rainbow Connection. Segel in particular surprises with his musical chops and dance abilities. Most of his movies have been ensembles or co-starring vehicles, but here he proves his mettle as a charming leading man. He also co-wrote the screenplay and was instrumental in getting the movie made. His lifelong love of the Muppets is genuine and heartfelt, and it shows. There are plenty of inside jokes about past Muppet movies and shows that only a true fan could come up with.

Cooper does a little bit of scenery chewing as the villainous Richman. It is an over-the-top performance that fits right into this imaginary world. Though obviously the enemy, in true Muppet form he does not seem too threatening and will not scare any kids in the audience.

Anytime an old childhood staple is modernized, there comes the risk of alienating the target audience. There is no risk of that with "The Muppets." Even with original songs and characters, the writers and director James Bobin stay true to the original spirit of the Muppets. They still require humans to move and put a voice to them. They look exactly as they did in their heyday before creator Jim Henson died in 1990.

The film was done with the blessing of the Henson family and plays like a love letter to him and the Muppets themselves. In writing this love letter, Segel has not only introduced them to a new audience, but has made them relevant again. In a world where CGI and animation rule, "The Muppets" proves that old school techniques will still draw an audience.