In a constantly shifting world where our kids grow up too fast, some things have remained constant: Kermit is always lovable and whoopee cushions are always funny. The Muppet franchise may be over thirty years old, but writers Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller have created a movie that is fresh and full of wonderfully infectious joy and humor.
The Muppets follows Walter (voiced by Peter Linz), the world’s biggest Muppets fan, his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams). To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Gary and Mary plan to visit Los Angeles and see the sights. After singing a song introducing kids to the concept of the third wheel, Gary and Mary bring Walter along with them to visit the Muppet Studios. There they discover the evil plot of Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who will bulldoze Muppet Studios if the Muppets don’t come up with $10 million. It’s up to Kermit, Walter, Gary and Mary to get the Muppets back together and put on a performance that will save their name and their home.
Segel and Stoller deserve the credit for making this movie a true Muppet movie packed with musical numbers that aren’t overdone, don’t drag or feel forced. Its main tune, “Life’s a Happy Song”, is full of joy and sweetness (with just the right amount of silly self-conciousness) and will have your toes tapping for days. Segel and Adams dive into their roles with gusto. I’ve been a fan of Segel’s since Freaks and Geeks, and it was good to see him in a role he’s created for himself where he’s not Judd Apatow-ing it up.
The Muppets is a rare film these days: a kids movie that is self-aware without being cynical, and silly without being overly vulgar. Most of the self-referential laughs are for the adults, but the Muppets themselves speak directly to kids whether or not they have seen or even heard of the Muppets before. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to hear kids in the audience laughing their little hearts out to puppet chickens bwaking Cee Lo, instead of at cruel verbal jabs or cartoon violence. The Muppets may be from a time when more people lived and valued love and acceptance like Jim Henson did but they are so necessary today as an antidote to those precocious, seen-it-all at age eleven kids on the Disney channel (Yes, Disney owns the Muppets now. It has its Mickey-gloved fingers in practically everything). The Muppets have always been gentle, goofy, nerdy outsiders whose greatest gift has been to let kids be kids and to laugh alongside them, and Segel and Stoller have captured that perfectly. Watching The Muppets was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had at the movies all year. Whether you have kids or not, whether you grew up on the Muppets or the Muppet Babies, you should see this movie – you wont find one with more heart this year.