These guys need no introduction. Except perhaps: it’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to meet the muppets on The Muppet Show tonight. And indeed this is exactly how we see them, putting on a show at The Muppet Theatre. The Muppets is a throwback to earlier more successful works (and that certainly includes the TV show), embracing all that worked before. Their last outing was 1999‘s Muppets from Space. This is far more pared-down and foregoes any unnecessary guff and gimmicks. It has resulted in a much purer work that has delighted both fans and critics around the world.
It starts with Gary (Jason Segel) growing up next to his brother Walter in
. While it is noted there’s something different about Walter, nobody mentions the fact that he’s a muppet. Smalltown, USA sets off on a romantic excursion to LA with Mary (Amy Adams) to celebrate their anniversary. They also bring Walter. On a guided tour of The Muppet Theatre they find that dastardly oil magnate Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) has discovered oil under the theatre. The only way to stop him from destroying the place is to reunite the Muppets and put on a telethon to save it. Gary
The film is peppered with celebrity cameos but they are not given a chance to dominate. Some of them barely get a look in (let alone a line). The stars of this show are the muppets themselves. The key humans play it nicely opposite their fuzzy counterparts: Jason Segel delivers just the right balance of average Joe and wide-eyed wonder to make it work, while Amy Adams seems perfectly at home in another Disneyfied setting. The songs have a sensational energy to them. For this, credit should be given to director James Bobin, no stranger to a musical number having directed Flight of the Conchords, and to Bret McKenzie himself (of Conchords fame), who wrote the music. One of the songs, Man or Muppet has even been nominated for an Oscar.
While the film’s outlook is sweet and un-cynical, it’s a very knowing script, filled with self-reflexive humour. (Along with Nicholas Stoller, Jason Segel also takes a writing credit.) This adds to the film’s charm and makes for a peculiarly joyful film experience.