After some time displacement issues between 2008 and this afternoon, I finally had a chance to see The Muppets, the first theatrical Muppet movie since 1999’s Muppets From Space.
The review following has some spoilers past this point, but I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of the classic Muppet movies. Lots of humor, celebrity cameos, catchy songs, and heart.
The film follows Walter, the Muppets’ biggest fan, Gary, his human brother played by Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the film with Nicholas Stoller), and Mary, Gary’s longtime girlfriend played by Amy Adams. The three travel to LA for Gary and Mary’s anniversary, but go to the long abandoned Muppet Studios for Walter. When Walter overhears a plot from oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to tear down the old Muppet Theater, it sets the trio in action to reunite the Muppets for one last show to save not only their theater, but their legacy.
There’s a running joke in the film that laughter is the third most important gift you can give someone, behind a child and ice cream. If laughter is the third greatest gift, this film provides a lot of it. Segel and Stoller prove that they have a great understanding of how the Muppets work, with lots of fourth wall breaking moments, character gags, and great cameos from various celebrities. My favorites would have to be Neil Patrick Harris with a blink and you’ll miss it cameo as a celebrity phone operator and Dave Grohl as an Animal Impersonator. I will admit though that my hardest laugh came from the first appearance of 80s Robot and his tray full of Tab and New Coke.
Along with the humor and heart of the written dialogue, there are plenty of songs sung on this adventure. Written by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, the new songs are catchy and cheerful in traditional Muppet fashion. The most notable example is probably ‘Life’s a Happy Song’, which opens and closes the film with big, cheerful dance numbers. My favorite though is ‘Me Party’, a single ladies’ anthem performed by Mary and Miss Piggy. There are points where the songs feel a bit Conchords-y, but that’s perfectly fine since they’re still plenty funny. Perhaps I am a sucker for the classic Muppet songs though, because my favorite musical moment in the entire movie was when all of the Muppets performed the classic ‘Rainbow Connection’ in the third act. I hope Paul Williams loves that moment just as much as I do.
As I said before, the film is very similar to early Muppet films such as The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan. The Muppets are setting out for an adventure, but this time, it’s in a world that has forgotten about them. Which is weird to think about because the Muppets have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, but it has been a very long time since the Muppets have been a public eye like this. If the end of the film is any indicator though, the Muppets won’t be disappearing again any time soon.
To me, that’s just as great as Children and Ice Cream.
(And as a side note: The Toy Story short that shows before the movie might be one of the funniest things Pixar has produced. Two words: Jane Lynch.)