The Muppets have not had a great run of it for quite a few years. After setting the world alight with the Muppet Show back in the 70s, and then a string of funny, clever films that begain in 1979 with The Muppet Movie, the fuzzy characters faded away at the end of the 20th century after the poorly received (and rather dire) Muppets From Space.
But now, thanks to the amazing Jason Segel, the Muppets are back. And how.
The plot sees the world's biggest Muppet fan, Walter (who is himself a Muppet), travelling from his home in Smalltown USA to Hollywood with brother Gary (Segel) and Gary's girlfriend Mary (Adams) to visit the now-deserted Muppet Studios. While touring the studios, Walter breaks off from the group and heads in to Kermit's old office. While there, Walter overhears a plot by evil oil baron Tex Richman (Cooper) to tear down the studios and drill for oil. So Walter, Gary and Mary set about hunting down the long-separated Muppets to get to reform for one last show to raise $10 million so they can save their old theatre.
In many ways, the plot mirrors The Muppet Movie. That film was all about how the Muppets got together in the first place; this time, it's all about getting the Muppets back together. The gang have gone their separate ways: Kermit is alone, and rambling about in his Bel Air mansion; Miss Piggy is the Plus-Size editor at Vogue magazine in Paris; Fozzie is performing in Reno with a tribute group, The Moopets; Gonzo has gone back to his roots, and now runs a plumbing empire; Animal is taking anger management classes. And so, as with the original, we hit the road to track everyone down.
The Muppets is more than just a reboot of a long gone, and almost forgotten, series. It's an hilarious, knowing and very clever love letter to some of the greatest characters to ever grace our screens, both big and small. I grew up watching The Muppet Show on TV, and then gladly followed them as they progressed to cinematic adventures – most of them great, a couple of them, not so much. The Muppets is overflowing with joy, optimism and that trademark wit – cheesy, a little kooky, but never nasty – that stood them in good stead for so many years. The film is chock-full of laugh-out-loud moments, brilliant throwaway gags, knowing breakages of the fourth wall. But most of all there is a deep, warm and genuine affection for the characters, and their history, from star Segel and his co-writer Stoller.
Praise, too, must go to director Bobins, who brings with him a comic sensibility that he honed working on Flight of the Conchords. He also brings with him Conchords star and songwriter Bret McKenzie, who has been nominated for an Oscar for the wonderful track Man or Muppet. McKenzie also wrote the opening song-and-dance number, Life's a Happy Song (my favourite song in the film – it's a genuine snglalong toe-tapper). And speaking of musical numbers – yes, The Muppet Show Theme gets dusted off for outing, as does Kermit's classic Rainbow Connection. And if you don't choke up and shed a tear or two during that, then you're simply dead inside.
As with the old TV show and the first movie, there are dozens of celebrities popping up here and there. Apart from Black, who has a fairly pivotal role, keep your eyes peeled for Alan Arkin, Zach Galifianakis, Emily Blunt, Dave Grohl, Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Mickey Rooney and Sarah Silverman, to name but a few. And a final shout-out (and BIG respect) must go to Muppet wranglers Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel and Peter Linz – without these guys, the movie never would have been made.
We've been waiting an awful long time to see a Muppet movie as good as this one on the big screen again, but it's been worth the wait. You'll walk out of the cinema with a mile-wide grin on your face, and a song in your heart, that will last for days and days. Thanks, and welcome back, Kermit and Miss Piggy – we've missed you. And a massive thanks to you too, Jason. You've done us proud. And I'm sure that Jim Henson would be proud, too.
EXTRAS ★★★★ An audio commentary with Segel, Bobin and Stoller; seven Theatrical Spoof Trailers (9:00); eight deleted scenes (10:01); the featurette Scratching the Surface: a Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets (15:56); The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (Well ... at Least in Muppet History) *We Think (8:33); Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song (2:38); A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read Through (3:19)