Today, for the first time since 1999’s ‘Muppets from Space’, Kermit and the gang hit the big screen. If you read this blog at all, you already know I’m a big… nay… huge fan of Jim Henson’s lovable band of misfits. So, going in, it is natural to assume that I fully expected to enjoy ‘The Muppets’. But, I do remember the mediocre outings that were ‘Muppets from Space’ and ‘Muppet Treasure Island’, so I had my trepidations. But enough about my mindset going in… I’ll now get to the question you came here for: Is the new Muppet movie any good?
Without being spoilery at all, I can give a complete and enthusiastic thumbs up. From the opening dance number to the final tune over the credits, ‘The Muppets’ is pure cinematic bliss. I’ll be as spoiler-free as possible with my further comments but, if just came to find out if ‘The Muppets’ is good, then… yes! A thousand times yes! Now go see it!
As for the movie itself, I’d seen and read all the interviews with writer/star Jason Segel leading up to the release of ‘The Muppets’. The ‘How I Met Your Mother’ star kept professing his love of the original Muppets. But I just couldn’t wrap my head around a new writer with being able to pull off a Muppet movie with as much heart as the 1979 original ‘Muppet Movie’. But Segel utterly proved me wrong.
If you’re an old fan of the Muppets like myself, or a newcomer to the show, there’s something for everyone. For old fans, there are countless nods to ‘The Muppet Show’ and several direct or otherwise references to the Muppet movies that have come before. And, if you are looking for your favorite Muppet… odds are that he or she will make at least one appearance before the movie is out. Segel and crew managed to slap so many Muppets into this movie that it’s sheer insanity without becoming overwhelming. Plus, most of the many secondary characters get at least a line or two. For new fans, the movie does a wonderful job setting up the history of the Muppets and the main players. Sure… you’ll miss some of the inside nods but the movie has enough laughs and heart to keep anyone entertained.
The plot is simple. The Muppet Show is over and the Muppets have each gone their own way. Kermit is living in a mansion that was intended to be his home with Piggy. Fozzie is working in Reno with a Muppet impersonation group called the Moopets. Gonzo is a plumbing magnate. Piggy works for ‘Vogue’ in France. But when a slimy oil tycoon (played by Chris Cooper) decides to buy and demolish the Muppet Studios and Theater, the gang has to get together for one more time to raise the cash to save it. It’s a cliché plot that’s been done in dozens of other movies. But the Muppets have never really been about plot. They’re about the characters and this movie delivers on character in spades!
All the old favorites are faithful to their classic personas so fans needn’t worry about any Shrek-like pop culture changes. Kermit is the heart of the team. Fozzie’s the lovable wanna-be comic. Piggy’s gruff with a soft heart. And Gonzo… well… he’s Gonzo. The highlight of the characters for me, though, was the new Muppet… Walter. I’m not big on changes to classics. When Disney added Pepe to the Muppets in 1996’s ‘Muppets Tonight’, I immediately disliked him on general principal, even though he grew on me over time. The same can’t be said of Walter. Walter is a lovable guy, a huge Muppet fan, and just wants to find a place where he belongs. Maybe he’s easier to like because he’s relatable to a fan like myself but Walter is a perfect fit for the Muppets.
And the music! Oh the music! Not since ‘The Muppet Movie’ with it’s memorable ‘Rainbow Connection’ and ‘Movin’ Right Along’ have I found myself humming a new Muppet tune. Sure… there are a few traditional songs, including the theme to ‘The Muppet Show’ and the aforementioned ‘Rainbow Connection’ (including a new take from Muppet impersonators the Moopets). But the original tunes, written by Bret McKenzie of 'Flight of the Conchords' are what caught my ear. The opening number with the song ‘Life’s a Happy Song’ is pure brilliance and is already something that I can see myself humming for the next few weeks. Kermit’s ‘Pictures in My Head’ is good enough to hold a spot alongside the banjo-player's classics. The song ‘Man or Muppet’ is wonderful and one that I’m already told by friends is my new theme song.
When I review movies that I gush over like this one, I usually try to find at least one fault with it just to try and be fair but I honestly can’t think of one with ‘The Muppets’. The tune ‘Life’s a Happy Song’ has the line “Everything is perfect. It’s falling into place. I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face.” and that’s exactly how I feel about ‘The Muppets’. It’s perfect and I’ve been grinning like a child for the past several hours and I expect that I will be for the foreseeable future.