They’re back…and how!
Fans of The Muppets can breathe a sigh of relief. After a 12-plus year absence from the big screen, and even more relevantly a decades-long period since the prime time show was on television, those responsible for this thoroughly enjoyable re-boot have safeguarded a national treasure.
Those who were anxious had reason. After Disney bought the rights to the Muppets, it was wise to show restraint, or maybe the studio was just busy making “Pixar” a household name. But the new film was the beloved project of puppet devotee Jason Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), who brought along director James Bobin (Sasha Baron Cohen’s favorite writer) and writer Nicholas Stoller (“Get Him to the Greek”), all of whom had plenty of raunchy R-rated material in their background.
Indeed the team makes “The Muppets” more current. But it’s done in the way those responsible for the franchise used to do in their heyday: by surrounding our lovable, fleeced characters with a deluge of current stars while maintaining a clever, self-aware, and utterly upbeat spirit within the confines of family-friendly shenanigans.
The plot is simple: A nefarious oil tycoon (a hilariously mean Chris Cooper) is planning to level the Muppets’ old theater for the crude riches that lie beneath, so the gang must raise $10 million quickly to save it. Gary (Segel), his girl Mary (Amy Adams) and Gary’s little brother (a cute little felt creation voiced superbly by Peter Linz) find out about the theater’s demise while on vacation in Hollywood and track down Kermit the Frog, who is living as a recluse in an old mansion. The plan is to have a telethon, so Kermit must recruit the gang—most of whom have moved on to various occupations—including Miss Piggy, working as a plus-size editor for Vogue Paris.
While the voices and presence of late creator Jim Henson are missed, and Frank Oz decided not to participate, the new team hit a home run with the addition of songs (credit music supervisor Bret “Flight of the Conchords” McKenzie) that add a magical, undeniably humorous, big-musical-showstopper element to the proceedings. It’s better to leave the details a surprise, which is half the fun.
It must be noted that Amy Adams is darling as ever and Segel can’t come close to her in charm or talent. But we won’t hold that against him because his vision and collaborative touch have brought back a cherished legacy without blemish. While it is true you can’t go back, “The Muppets” proves that a few things in life, in the right hands, are well worth revisiting.