By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Rashida Jones and Chris Cooper
Nostalgia can be a double edged sword. On one hand, people are aching to get a part of their childhood back, and want something new with characters they grew up with to watch in new adventures. On the other hand, more often than not these new adventures remind you why these characters would have been better off if they were left alone (yes Mr. Lucas: I am talking to you). The Muppets are a big part of my, and a lot of other peoples’ childhoods. Yet, I was not really aching to have another movie about them. I mean, we have The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan. Two movies that were fun romps, and were watched over and over in my childhood. Then, when I heard this was the passion project of Jason Segel of all people, I started to cringe. Could the guy who wrote and starred in the lewd and crude Forgetting Sarah Marshall bring back these parts of our childhood without resorting to new rude tricks, while at the same time bring back some of the old Muppet magic?
I am very happy to report that the answer is yes! Segel, who not only stars but wrote the script with his Forgetting Sarah Marshall partner Nicolas Stoller, has somehow found the perfect blend of nostalgia and modern times to make a film that is funny, heart warming, and sometimes heart tugging. The story concerns Segel playing Gary, a guy who grew up with a brother named Walter. Growing up, they both loved to watch The Muppet Show and Walter, who feels out of place in his current environment, dreams of being a part of the Muppet team. On a trip to Los Angeles, Gary decides to surprise Walter and bring him to Muppet studios. There, it is revealed that ultra bad guy Tex Richman (a relishing Chris Cooper), convinced it is no longer a property of value on the outside, plans to buy it out and tear it down, drilling for oil in the process. While the plot isn’t exactly the stuff of creativity, all Gary, his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), and Walter do is serve as catalysts to get the Muppet gang back together again.
All of our favorites are here, and they all, for the most part, get their bit of screen time. Kermit is still feeling green, Fonzie still is the catalyst of bad jokes, and Animal is still, well, Animal. Some of the funniest bits are when they go find where the rest of the gang is to gather them up. Animal is at anger management. Gonzo works for The Royal Flush plumbing company. Miss Piggy works in Paris. These are bits that are in true Muppet form, and are fun to watch. There are also new additions, the funniest of which was 80s Robot, a character who I was at least smiling at every single time he was onscreen. The funny thing is that while the humans in this film are very cliché, they are still in the same Muppet tradition that I, quite selfishly, have missed in modern family films. Chris Cooper is a sheer delight as the slimy villain Tex Richman, with bad guy music playing every single time he is onscreen. Rashida Jones plays the CDE executive who is convinced, like many critics and people of today, that “the Muppets aren’t relevant anymore,” but gives them airtime because her most watched program has been sued. Adams, who worked hard to shed her good girl image in last year’s The Fighter, is back to her enchanted self here. She dashes and sings her way through the movie beautifully, making a part of her just wanting Gary to spend one night away from his new friends on their anniversary weekend sweet and meaningful. And, of course, in true Muppet movie tradition, there are cameos galore.
Speaking of singing, I defy anyone to get in their car and not hum at least one of the songs that were in this film (guilty as charged). Songs like “Life’s A Happy Song” and “Man or Muppet” are, once again, in the true Muppet tradition of being silly, yet catchy at the same time. And, of course, a few classics from past films are also sung again, with Kermit singing “Rainbow Connection” using the same exact banjo that he used in The Muppet Movie. While I had real trepidations going into this film, Segel proves that he knows exactly what made the Muppets so magical and popular when the late Jim Henson was at the helm. There are moral lessons, catchy songs, and I bet you even get a tear or two within the course of the movie. All Muppet traditions. And, all add up to a film that I’d be willing to bet would make Jim Henson proud. Watch out world! The Muppets are back!
4 out of 5