The Muppets

Mahna Mahna

Reminiscing aside, James Bobin and Jason Segel’s 2011 The Muppets is not so much a reboot as it is a long-time-coming sequel.  The film, featuring the classic Muppets mix of celebrity cameos, witty humor, and bold self-awareness, manages to deliver one of the best Muppets stories in the series, not quite rivaling Muppet Treasure Island or The Great Muppet Caper, but a close third, and the motley cast of live actors (who may never have shared the screen otherwise) occasionally let slip a pining, glowing expression, as though just realizing they’re onscreen with characters they watched as children.

The story follows Gary (Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams), as they travel to Los Angeles for their tenth anniversary.  Gary brings his brother, Walter, who looks (and grows) like a Muppet.  How they are biologically related is never explained.  Walter, a lifelong fan of the Muppets, dreams of visiting the Muppet studio, but soon learns that not only have the Muppets not put on a show in years, but an “evil oil baron” aptly named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans on demolishing the studio to reach the resources beneath.  The Muppet characters (Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy, The Great Gonzo, and all the rest) band together for one last show, which they hope will raise enough money to save the studio and preserve their legacy.

Throughout the adventure (with musical numbers abound), everyone from Jack Black to Emily Blunt to Rashida Jones to Sarah Silverman appear (along with half the cast of NBC’s sitcom lineup), in roles of various sizes.  The Muppets themselves are juggled well in terms of screen time, with most of the focus on Kermit and Walter.  Statler and Waldorf (my personal favorites) prove once and for all that their cynical pseudo-gentlemen humor will hold up unto the latest days (“I always dreamed we’d be back at Muppet Studios.”  “Dreams?  Those were nightmares!”), and characters such as Rolf and Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem get their due appearances (Animal even has his own side plot featuring an anger management group led by Kristen Schaal).  The film also features a group of bad-egg Muppet impersonators called “The Moopets,” who quickly antagonize themselves (Dave Grohl appears as their drummer, “Animool”).

The tale is fun, well-paced, self-conscious, and quite often very sweet.  My only gripe is that a musical film in which Jack Black and Neil Patrick Harris both appear doesn’t feature either of them singing.  Seems unforgivable, though it only occurred to me in retrospect.  Additionally, there is a serious deficiency of the always-hilarious Sam Eagle, though I understand how much they had to cram into this script, and Sam does make a brief appearance, so no foul.

For those born in the 80’s and before: don’t miss the end credits.  That’s all I can really say.

The Muppets (2011); written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller; directed by James Bobin; starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Rashida Jones and Chris Cooper.

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