I was always more of a Sesame Street kid. I think most of us in who are in high school now were, and that is alright, the Muppets are just a little ahead of our time, that is all. I remember morning television rather well, and most of those memories consist of me squeezing in the first half of Elmo’s World before I was shipped off to a grade school that would not teach me nearly as much in six hours as my red monster friend could in ten minutes. But some mornings, if I was extra-speedy in my routine (a rarity, even now), I could catch the odd Muppets rerun before Big Bird and everyone came on.
I guess the short of all this is that I knew a little bit about the Muppets going into the movie. I recognized most of the characters and I knew to a fair extent their roles in the program, but that was pretty much it. There was not a whole lot of personal connection (outside of Beaker of course, that little guy is hilarious). The Muppets changed this.
When I left the theater, I felt like I knew the Muppets. I had connected with them, even if I had not grown up with them, and that is what makes this movie an absolute triumph.
The Muppets is Jason Segal’s attempt to revive the beloved program and turn it into something that succeeds on both a nostalgic level and a modern-day level. The end result is so funny, so uplifting, and so incredibly relatable that I did not stop smiling the entire movie.
The plot is simple. Two brothers, one a human named Gary (Segal), and one a puppet named Walter (Peter Linz), work to reunite the old Muppet gang in order to put on one last show and raise enough money to prevent the old-time Muppet Theater from falling into the hands of Tex Richman, who is seeking to demolish the theater and drill for oil instead. If it sounds cliché, that is because it is, and everyone from the audience to the characters onscreen know it (“Tex Richman?” The puns only grew better and better).
The movie is incredibly self-aware in this way, and the results are some truly hilarious moments that openly mock everything from dance numbers to the film industry’s now-liberal use of the montage. If you are expecting something kiddy, think again, because the humor here is surprisingly intelligent and adult. Little kids will have their laughs, as expected, but the attention given to the older audience makes for one of the funniest movies I have seen this year. Especially in a time of half-hashed sequels (did I hear someone say The Hangover?) and cheap money-makers, The Muppets is incredibly refreshing.
But at the end of the day, this is a tribute to the puppet-characters that the writers grew up with, so it should not disappoint anyone to see that all of the frontrunners have their big moments. The “real actors” take a back seat to Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, and the rest of the gang. It is easy for the audience to tell that everyone involved in the movie is there for the fuzzy friends, and the result is a love-letter movie that truly feels like a love-letter. The Muppets are the heroes, and they take center-stage like they should. Even the introduction of Walter, our protagonist, as an entirely new Muppet is handled wonderfully, and he fits right in with the rest of the crowd.
There are cameos abound in this movie, and while some of them seem like they were just tossed in to bolster the credits (Zack Galifinakis, mostly), but these are few and far-between, and they remain my only gripe with the film. Most of the cameos are in fact very well-executed, and the stars are present for the perfect amount of time (and to be honest, Selena Gomez made one of my favorite appearances). Again, everyone involved is clearly there for the Muppets, and when the viewer can see that, it only becomes easier for us to cheer on our old (or new) friends.
I hate the phrase “heart-warming” when a movie is described. It freaking sounds terrible, and not even a little bit pleasing (imagine your heart roasting over a fire, but you can feel it . . . yeah see, not so great now, is it?). However, when it comes to The Muppets, I can let it slide, because this movie has some truly touching moments that even newcomers will find stirring. If I had not been sitting next to my girlfriend, I might have “had something in my eye”, but luckily I was able to keep things under control (If you find yourself in a similar situation, I recommend focusing really hard on those little lights at the end of the row, it helped for some reason). But my own emotional battle is a testament to what this movie has done, because by the conclusion, the viewer is so ready to back the characters onscreen it is ridiculous. The most exposure I had ever had to the Muppets was early-morning PBS, but this movie had turned me into a fan in just an hour and a half.
The Muppets set out to revive the series for old fans and present it in a refreshing way to rookies. It did both, and it did both brilliantly. What you have here is a movie that is genuinely funny, genuinely spirited, and genuinely excellent. A 9 out of 10 easily.
The music played. The lights were lit. I met The Muppets all over again, and I might just be in love.
Just don't tell Elmo. But I hear he loves his goldfish and crayon now anyway. The creep.