For the first time in seven years, I was denied admission to a movie because it was sold out. With the increase in ticket prices and decrease in audience attendance recently, I was understandably surprised. So I bought tickets for the next show time of “The Muppets” and resisted George Clooney’s up-to-no-good grin and Oscar buzz surrounding “The Descendants.”
While standing in line for an hour, I witnessed grandparents, moms, dads and kids chattering incessantly about candy, puppies, and other pressing issues for the five to 11-year-old age group.
However, every minute spent waiting was worth it, as “The Muppets” was not only hilarious, but touching. The sharp screenplay written by “How I Met Your Mother” star Jason Segel and “Get Him to the Greek” screenwriter Nicholas Stoller provided a strong backbone and structure for the film.
The movie starts with protagonist Walter, a puppet, and his human brother Gary (Segel) growing up in “Smalltown,” USA. Walter begins to feel disconnected from Gary because he is a puppet, until he sees his first episode of “The Muppet Show.” He connects with the characters and becomes a super-huge fan.
The film embraces innocence, as even many years later Gary and Walter still live in their shared childhood bedroom. The audience is then introduced to Gary’s teacher girlfriend of 10 years, Mary (“Enchanted” star Amy Adams). Gary and Mary invite Walter to join them on their anniversary vacation to Los Angeles, Calif., so he can tour the old Muppet studios.
Upon finally arriving in LA, the three are disappointed to find the Muppet studios dilapidated and long-abandoned by its former stars. While on the tour, Walter overhears evil oil tycoon Tex Richman’s (Chris Cooper) plan to buy the studios and destroy them in order to drill for oil.
Walter, devastated, immediately tells Gary and Mary of Richman’s maniacal plans. They go on a quest to reunite the gang, including Kermit the Frog, who feels lonely (accompanied by the song “Pictures in My Head”), Fozzie Bear who is in a seedy Muppets cover band called “The Moopets,” Gonzo, Animal and, of course, the original diva Miss Piggy.
The gang must work together to organize a telethon performance to raise $10 million to save the studios. While still light-hearted, the film is not without its necessary drama. The evil Tex Richman proves a real threat to the group, and some relationship drama occurs between Gary and Mary as well as with Kermit and Miss Piggy. Another overarching conflict is whether Walter can discover his true identity (“Man or Muppet”).
The film’s greatest accomplishment is that it plays perfectly to all audiences. Like the “Toy Story” series, Disney has succeeded again in creating a film that brings nostalgia to the forefront of each viewer’s mind. Cameo appearances by Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Selena Gomez, Zach Galifianakis, Jim Parsons and more added hilarity and a break from the puppeteering. The best short cameo was by Emily Blunt, who reprised her role as a snooty fashion magazine assistant – a la “The Devil Wears Prada” – to Miss Piggy, who works at Vogue Paris as a plus size editor.
However, the humans ruling the film were Segel’s heartwarming Gary, Adams’ sweet Mary, Rashida Jones’ (“Our Idiot Brother”) portrayal as a tough TV exec and Jack Black (“Gulliver’s Travels”) playing himself.
The musical numbers included some classics like “Rainbow Connection” that brought down the house, as well as versions of “Forget You” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The dialogue entertained both adults and kids while the plot addressed universal issues of identity.
Everyone can relate to Walter’s struggle and journey as someone who does not quite know where he belongs. His internal debate of whether he should stay in Smalltown, USA, or pursue his dream of being a successful performer on “The Muppet Show” will hit surprisingly close to home for some.
Movie-goers, even if they think they are too old, should see this film – and may even wish it were longer. At 19 years of age, I was not only amused throughout, but I do not regret spending a cent of the $10 it cost to see the show. To do so is to take an opportunity to be a kid again for 98 minutes.
4 out of 5 stars