Film review: 'The Muppets' new flick revives movie franchise
In this undated photo provided by Disney Enterprises, Kermit the Frog, right, tries to persuade Miss Piggy to help save the Muppet Theater from being torn down in a scene from "The Muppets." ((AP Photo/Disney, Scott Garfield))
Before I tell the happy story of how much I loved "The Muppets," I want to tell a sad story.
Earlier this year, my mother took my cousins (ages 7 and 10) on a trip to Walt Disney World. One of the theme parks features a 3-D movie starring The Muppets. Neither of my cousins enjoyed the attraction.
I couldn't understand what wasn't to love about a delightful romp starring beloved characters from my childhood.
Then a dreadful thought crossed my mind. "Do you at least know who the Muppets are?" I asked.
"Yes," said one of them, "They're the boring people".
In other words, no, they didn't know who the Muppets are. I'm sure they're familiar with the Muppets of the Children's Television Workshop (a.k.a. the ones on "Sesame Street"), but they've had no exposure to the Muppets in their most classic incarnation: the Muppets of "The Muppet Show."
These kids deserve to grow up with harried emcee Kermit the Frog, diva-to-end-all-divas Miss Piggy, hacky second-banana Fozzie Bear, wildcard whatever Gonzo the Great, culinary calamity causer Swedish Chef, bungling mad scientist Bunsen and his ever-victimized assistant Beaker (Beaker being my personal favorite), and the hip-musical stylings of Electric Mayhem and their adrenalized-drummer Animal.
Fortunately I didn't have to wait vary long to see something done about the lack of classic Muppets in youth culture. "The Muppets" brings them back in a big way, making up for years of neglect in one grand gesture It doesn't just rely on nostalgia for laughs, it has perhaps the funniest script of the year from Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. It all adds up to a hundred minutes jam-packed with glee.
Before we are introduced to our old favorites, we meet original characters Gary (Segel), Mary (Amy Adams), and Walter (a muppet). Gary and Walter are brothers despite their obvious textural differences, which leads me to believe that maybe everybody onscreen sees Walter as a human until he makes a crucial decision late in the film. Gary and Mary take a romantic anniversary trip to Los Angeles and Walter tags along so he can see the legendary Muppet Studios.
Walter is saddened to find out that the old Muppet Studio is practically abandoned, and even more upset to discover that an evil oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) is about to buy the old Muppet Theater and tear it down. Walter rushes to Kermit, only to be even more disillusioned when he learns that The Muppets disbanded years ago and a reunion isn't likely to happen anytime soon. But with their old home at stake, maybe they can band together one last time for a benefit show.
OK, so maybe the "benefit show" plot has been done to death. The story is still handled with an undulled comic energy. The film does have surprises in the form of celebrity cameos and musical numbers.
The Muppets themselves stay true to form, it's the bad guys who try to force modernization. There is only one rap number, it's not from a Muppet, and it's over before your eyes have a chance to fully bulge.
The only weak point of the film is the climactic telethon itself, where so many minor Muppets are forced onscreen at once that beloved favorites start to fall to the wayside. In other words, the film could have used more Beaker.
"The Muppets" is fun from beginning to end. Even the sad scenes have plenty funny about them. Actually, the fun starts before the movie even begins when you're treated to a bonus short starring the characters from "Toy Story." I'm hopeful that the film will be so successful that it leads to a relaunch of "The Muppet Show."
At the very least I'm happy that a new generation gets to enjoy The Muppets.
Three and a Half Stars out of Five.
"The Muppets" is rated PG for mild rude humor. Its running time is 98 minutes.