Movies: The Muppets

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper
Directed By: James Bobin
Written By: Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller from characters created by Jim Henson
Disney, 2011
PG; 103 min
4 stars (out of 5)


A hugely self-aware and cameo-laden reboot of the 70s-80s property (now held by Disney), The Muppets is nevertheless charming and entertaining and a worthy heir to the dusty throne.

Segel plays Gary, whose younger brother Walter is, well, "different." (He's a Muppet, looking for his place in the world.) Walter becomes obsessed with The Muppet Show, and when Gary takes his girlfriend (Adams) to Hollywood for their 10-year anniversary (of dating?), Walter tags along in hopes of experiencing the Muppet Studio.

Of course, what they find is a decrepit backlot that has long been abandoned. Kermit and the gang have gone their separate ways. And so would they still be, with the evil Tex Richman (Cooper) demolishing said studio if not for Walter's devotion.

The whole of the movie is merely a metaphor for Disney's attempt at making a new Muppet movie to see if the brand contains any life. The Muppets hold a telethon to raise money to save their studio, and we the viewers are shown many living rooms filled with families laughing and watching television together, a kind of harkening back to the "good old days." The character of Walter, meanwhile, acts as stand-in for new youngsters who, like him, are getting their first taste of Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, and the others. Will kids seeing this movie be as hooked on the Muppets as Walter? And the idea that the Muppets must make a certain amount of money to win back their studio can be likened to The Muppets needing to make a certain amount at the box office to win a second shot at life in the big time.

Despite my seeming cynicism, I found The Muppets thoroughly entertaining, with exactly the right amount of nostalgia ("The Rainbow Connection" never fails to give me chills). I can't imagine my kids wanting to run away and join the Muppets the way Walter does, but my daughter has a love of Jack Black that this film will satisfy. (Note to all filmmakers: abuse of Jack Black is comedy gold. Please work it into your scripts whenever possible.) On the whole, The Muppets is poised for broad appeal to all ages. Here's hoping Disney gives them another outing.

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