Rating: 4 stars out of 5
It’s been a year of revivals and remakes, from The Smurfs to Tintin. Now, it’s the turn of one of television’s once-hot properties that has managed to gradually eke out a new following with its YouTube videos, coming back to the big screen.
Yes, it’s The Muppets, who have taken a long absence from show business. But there are loyal fans, such as Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter, who is also a muppet. Together with Segel’s longtime girlfriend Mary, played by the gorgeous Amy Adams, the trio take a trip to Los Angeles to visit the Muppet Studios, only to find a dilapidated set about to be taken over by Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a millionaire who intends to tear up the studio in his search for oil.
Wasting no time, Walter tries to bring the Muppets together to stage a telethon to save the studio, and enlists the help of Kermit to bring the others on board. All seem game except Miss Piggy, who is now lording it over a high fashion magazine like Anna Wintour, Miss Piggy refuses to follow Kermit… initially.
Richman learns about the plan and does his best to sabotage the group, but the Muppets do manage to stage a show, with the help of plenty of cameos and guest stars, none of which, thankfully, upstage the Muppets. The list of celebrities lending a hand range from Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Zach Galifianakis, Alan Arkin and quite a few more.
Director James Bobin has let the Muppets have most of the floor in this revival, and there are plenty of callbacks and references to their past glories, including a couple of their biggest hits. Executive Producer Segel is also responsible for bringing back the Muppets, and while everything is nostalgia tinged and you feel like you’re walking around in a set from Disney, this film is fun for both old fans and newcomers alike.
Thankfully there hasn’t been too much tinkering, and the Muppets are still played by puppets and not displaced by some technological razzle dazzle. In an era where everything seems to be digitally enhanced and 3D, there’s a certain vitality and solidness that the Muppets possess that fits right into the nostalgic atmosphere that the film embraces.
Naturally, with the aim of not overshadowing the puppets, both Segel and Adams are small town caricatures, particularly Segel who plays a more dumbed down version of his ‘How I Met Your Mother’ role, but the pair still play their roles with gusto.
The Muppets is definitely at its best when its humour steps into the bizarre, such as when a bunch of chicken puppets do a cover of Cee-Lo’s “F*** You”, or a barbershop quintet does its interpretation of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, or when the car has a travel by map feature that does precisely that. It’s these zany little moments that make the film, and the original show, stand out. Life’s a show and the Muppets embraces that full-on.
As a bonus, there’s also a new Toy Story short preceding the film, as if you need another reminder who are the current owners of this famed, and much missed, franchise.