Jim Henson got his hands on....okay, maybe not The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. But Sesame Street? Fraggle Rock? The Muppets? Oh, yes, most definitely. Fraggle Rock's basic weirdness excluded, I loved everything Sesame Street and The Muppets could throw my way from TV shows to feature length movies. So last summer when I saw a new Muppets movie was being made, I was psyched. Enter 2011's The Muppets.
Growing up, young Walter (voice of Peter Linz) has always been a little different, but he's always gotten along best with his brother, Gary (Jason Segel), who's planning a trip to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams). Gary goes along with hopes of seeing the Muppet Studios, but instead he accidentally hears some startling news. A greedy businessman, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), has bought the decrepit studio and plans to knock the place down. The only way out? Use a part of Richman's contract against him, but to do so, Walter has to reunite the long since departed Muppets. Can he find them? Naturally he starts at the top, looking for one Kermit the Frog.
It is clear from the script that he co-penned, but Segel was and is a huge fan of the Muppets dating back to The Muppet Show, The Muppet Movie, and yeah, basically anything with Muppets in it. Henson's creations have been out of the limelight for far too long if you ask me so there's a sense of nostalgia just watching this movie. The script actually plays that angle up as the old gang gets back together. Are the Muppets even famous anymore? Will anyone recognize them, much less welcome them back? Segel's script pays tribute to previous Muppet entries -- inside jokes, somewhat edgy humor for puppets, recurring gags -- but never goes overboard. Basically, if you have enjoyed watching the Muppets at any point in your life, something in this story will appeal to you.
While I feel ridiculous criticizing this movie in any sense, the positives outweigh the negatives for the most part. Why's that? Because it's the Muppets, and we get to see the old crew back together! Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the Great Gonzo, Rolf the Dog, Animal, Swedish Chef, Sam the Eagle, Dr. Bunson Hunnydue and Beeker, and any number of other guys I'm forgetting. It's not a long movie so some characters get thrown by the wayside, but what's there for each is prime. Kermit as usual plays straight man to the antics, Miss Piggy loses her mind, and Fozzie is hilarious (as always). There's just a comfort level with seeing these characters again.
Now anyone new to the Muppet franchise should beware of wave after wave of cameo appearances. Cooper is hysterical as maniacally evil Tex Richman, insisting his henchmen laugh maniacally because he can't. Rashida Jones plays a maligned TV executive who puts the Muppets back on TV. Also look for Jack Black in a scene-stealing part as himself, Alan Arkin, Sarah Silverman, Mickey Rooney, Zach Galifianakis, Neil Patrick Harris, John Krasinski, singer Selena Gomez, Whoopi Goldberg, The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, Emily Blunt, Dave Grohl as a replacement Animal, and Ken Jeong. And because Netflix/rental DVDs refuse to include special features on discs, apparently the deleted scenes feature many, many more cameos.
Brace yourself for the sacrilege. I have to criticize a Muppet movie. God bless Jason Segel and his Muppet fandom, but the hamfisted, forced story of his Gary and Adams' Mary is painful to watch. It's got to be hard being upstaged by Muppets, but basically anytime the story left focus from them to the humans....dullsville. It didn't help either that the song and dance numbers are awful. Maybe I'm spoiled with the original The Muppet Movie, but those original songs are classics. The Rainbow Connection does make an appearance here thankfully. As a topper, the new character, Walter, doesn't bring much new to the group. Still, this is a Muppet movie, and with fart shoes! Check it out HERE. The parts that do work -- Fozzie's Muppet cover band, Animal in Anger Management to control his drumming problem, the 'Muppet Man' dupe -- are spot-on. Too bad there couldn't have been more of those moments.
The Muppets <---trailer (2011): ** 1/2 /****