The Muppets (2011)

As a child, I have fond memories of watching The Muppet Show and enjoying the mix of comedy, music, and dance with my family and recapping the show with my friends the following day. Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, and the whole gang were my childhood icons and provided countless hours of entertainment with their brilliant and inspired variety show as well as the three movies that followed. It is hard to believe that 1989 was the last time the gang graced the big screen with “The Muppets in Space”. Thankfully they are back in a big way to delight fans, old and new, this holiday season.

The new films stars Jason Segel as Gary, a mild-mannered guy who has a swell life in his small community. He has been dating the lovely Mary (Amy Adams) for ten years and they are excited to plan their first visit to Los Angeles. Gary has a younger brother named Walter who is a huge fan of the Muppets, having grown up watching the beloved show with Gary. The fact that Walter actually is a Muppet might explain his utter devotion to the show and characters. So when Gary invites Walter to accompany Mary and him on their trip, Walter is ecstatic. At long last, he can visit The Muppet Studios.

Upon their arrival in L.A., Walter is shocked to find the studio in shambles and disrepair. Undaunted, Walter sneaks into Kermit’s old office and accidentally overhears a businessman named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plotting to steal the property from the Muppets. Determined to thwart Richman, Walter and Gary look up Kermit the Frog who, despite his reluctance, agrees to reunite the gang to put on a tele-thon to raise the needed money to save the theater.

Along the way there are some great and touching segments where we see what many of the characters have been up to in the recent years, and more than a few laughs and musical numbers also follow. In a race against time, and despite the lack of confidence the network has in their relevance, Kermit must whip the cast and theater into shape for an epic performance.

The movie was an absolute joy. It was so refreshing to see how Segel and director James Bobin have brought the Muppets to a new generation without losing the previous ones and staying very faithful to the characters and to Jim Henson’s vision. Segel, who came up with the story and co-wrote the script, seems to be having the time of his life as he sings and dances his way through several production numbers and gives a very funny, and in turns, tender performance.

Adams is a joy as the sweet, yet determined Mary, and the addition of the new Muppet Walter was a treat. Sure the plot may have been fairly formulaic but there were more than enough moments to keep the adults happy. At our screener, the adults were laughing even lauder than the kids in attendance, especially at the numerous pop culture reference, celebrity cameos, and nostalgic nods to the show.

I do not want to spoil the film but from Beaker doing his take on the Nirvana classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, to the Swedish Chef channeling Tony Montana from “Scarface” I was thoroughly entertained. I can honestly say this is not only one of the best of the Muppet movies but it is a perfect film to take the family. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself enjoying the magic as much, if not more, than the kids.

4 stars out of 5