The Muppets have been entertaining adults and children alike for over 50 years and it’s almost impossible to find someone who dislikes them. The Muppets is a welcome return to the big screen after more than a decade, one of the most fun, charming and enjoyable experiences to be had at the cinema this year.
Walter (voiced by Peter Linz but in Muppet form) and his brother Gary (a very human Jason Segel) have grown up idolising the Muppets. When Gary takes his long-term girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) on a romantic trip to Los Angeles for their anniversary, Walter tags along hoping to visit the Muppet studios, only to discover that not only is it in an advanced state of disrepair but that villainous oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to tear it down to drill for oil.
Luckily Kermit is easy to track down and together they realise that the only way to save their theatre is to put on a show and raise $10m, so they set off on a road trip to gather the other Muppets – Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal, and of course, the indefatigable Miss Piggy, in order to try and make it happen.
The script is funny, crackling with energy and features inspired musical numbers and enough nostalgia to keep old fans happy. The Muppets benefits hugely from a simple storyline which allows the felt friends to do what they do best – be themselves. As such their madcap antics are suitable for everyone, kids included, although adults who are already fans will certainly get the most out of the material.
Jason Segel and Amy Adams are outstanding in their human roles. Segel has a seemingly sincere affection for his Muppet co-stars and that shines through in a winningly warm performance. Adams too is magnificent – perfectly suited to big, smiley, song-and-dance routines (which recalls her previous effort for Disney in Enchanted which was similarly well judged).
The Muppets without its music would still have been decent but Bret McKenzie’s (of Flight Of The Conchords) songs are catchy, warm, witty and instantly hummable (Man Or Muppet has been justly nominated for an Oscar) and help elevate the film to brilliance. In fact, once it’s realised that McKenzie is behind the music, every song takes on a faintly Conchordian ring – something which fits well with the whimsical tone. And frankly, any film that features Chris Cooper rapping should get an extra star immediately.
There are one or two blips. A few jokes don’t quite hit the mark but they’re rattled off at such a rate, that the next funny line erases the memory of the last bad one. Amy Adams’ solo song and dance routine, fun as it is, seems orphaned from the rest of the movie, as if there was a linking scene which didn’t make it past the cutting room floor.
In the finest Muppet tradition there’s also a consistent stream of cameos. They’re a bit shy of genuine A-list heavyweights but the celebs they did manage to round up are wryly chosen, most of whom it would be gratuitously spoilerific to mention here. One in particular is nothing less than a stroke of casting genius – a delightful and perfectly judged scene which will make fans of a certain US comedy series squeal.
Despite one or two hiccups, The Muppets is an absolute delight. It’s respectful to its roots, gleefully anarchic and gives the Muppets room to be themselves and consequently is one of the best family movies in years. Let’s hope it won’t be 12 years before the next one.