Rainbow Connection Once More
If you're wondering just where the Muppets had disappeared to since it's been decades since my generation had last seen them on our television sets, then this Muppets film will fit right in and address that question, filling us in on just how everyone had past their time in various solo acts. In this sickening age of remakes and reboots, where studio executives wield much power to dictate just what else in the archives could been raided and updated for the modern age, The Muppets avoided this needles path, with Jason Segel, who also has a starring role, and Nicholas Stoller providing a screenplay that fused so much Muppet sensibilities that we pick up from where we last left off, at whichever point that worked for you. And that is pure brilliance.
For some reason, Segel's Gary has a brother Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) who's a muppet, and while they are the best of brothers, something's not quite right, but that biological explanation found no room, and got junked from the onset. Not that we're not aware of the acute differences, but seriously you won't be bothered with it. Instead it's sufficient to know that these two are such big fans of The Muppets Show while growing up, that Gary's 10th year anniversary celebration with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) meant a joint trip to Los Angeles, and to visit the studios in which the Muppets Show was shot in.
Walter sneaks around, and discovers a diabolical plot by industrialist Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a man who cannot laugh (and hence ordering his muppet henchmen to do a diabolical/maniacal laugh on his behalf) and having no qualms at demolishing the entire studio because it's sitting on a valuable oil well beneath. So in order to salvage what was his childhood delight, Walter, Gary and Mary look up Kermit the Frog (now voiced by Steve Whitmire, who sounds a little bit different from the Kermit I grew up with) who now has to gather his far flung muppet friends to stage one more Muppet show (what else!) cum telethon to raise $10 million in order to invoke an escape clause of a contract.
The Muppets is indeed an extended Muppets Show, and that is such such a delight. Given the musical treatment here, with Jason Segel looking quite awkward and Amy Adams being really at home with her role that calls for an evaluation of her relationship with Gary since her beau is adamant in helping both his brother Walter and the extended Muppets family - Fozzie Bear, Animal, Gonzo, Swedish Chef, Scooter, Miss Piggy of course and the likes - with each given a quick story on what they've been up to, and the rest given the token montage treatment, coupled with the zany Travel By Map technique that just is so hilarious it has to be seen to be believed.
In fact, it is precisely this zaniness and craziness that is sorely missed in many recent comedies that had to rely on toilet humour and foul language, that makes The Muppets such a fresh injection of ideas from the days of old, and in some ways instructional to comedic filmmaker wannabes on just how good, clean fun can be achieved. This project to revive the Muppets for the big screen was in good hands from the onset, with director James Bobin having cut his comedic teeth with Da Ali G Show, and The Flight of the Conchords which I rate very highly. Here, the jokes show the kind of wit that was a throwback to the Zucker brothers style, with sight gags and witty dialogue to laugh out loud at, keeping very much as well to the spirit of how it was done in the old Muppet Show days.
Then there's that road down memory lane when we actually get to see The Muppet Show in this, with the filmmakers not opting to cheat a little and show a watered down version. There are songs, and there are songs, where under the supervision of Conchords' Bret McKenzie meant quality, as well as the bringing back of notable oldies that will always have a place in any Muppet movie. Mah Nom Mah Nom, anyone?
Not forgetting too the nice family friendly messages in the film for the young ones, imparting positive values that any parent will give a nod to. Then there's the bevy of stars appearing in this film, most of them cameo appearances and playing exaggerated versions of themselves or characters they have played in their filmography, with the likes of Jack Black, Rashida Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Zach Galifianakis, Alan Arkin, Ken Jeong, Emily Blunt, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrick Harris and John Krasinski amongst others, some very fleeting, some without dialogue, but all clearly very game to snag an appearance in a beloved series that still continued to make headway and stay relevant up to this day and age, thanks to the lovely treatment by the filmmakers who stayed true to the spirit of the source material without trying to impose anything too reckless or smart alecky.
It's such a fantastic, nostalgic trip brought back to the modern day, that I am not hesitating to put this into the shortlist as one of the best films of this year. This is what we called The Muppet Show! Jim Henson would have been proud of this effort! Highly recommended!