The Muppets have a long, deep history, and most people on this Earth today can say that these familiar felt creatures played a part in their upbringing. Even those, like myself, who were too young to have regularly indulged in The Muppet Show when it aired on television, are nevertheless familiar with The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and, of course, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies. And just when it seemed like the Muppets had faded out of the pop culture in recent years, Kermit, Missy Piggy and the rest of the crew surge back into relevance in Jason Segel's resurrection of the franchise.
This big screen Muppet reunion features Gary (Segel), a simple man who spends his time with longtime girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) and his brother Walter. The brothers share an obsession with the Muppets, and Walter (weirdly) actually happens to be one. When the trio discovers an evil oil tycoon's (Chris Cooper) plans to drill for oil under the old, rundown Muppet Theater, they find Kermit and round up the gang to resurrect The Muppet Show
for a telethon to raise money to save the theater.
While Segel's writing may best be known for his more adult comedies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he adapts well to the family friendly genre. Segel co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller (also known for more R-rated fare, such as Get Him to the Greek). The two don't rely on ridiculous technology-age Twitter references to breathe life back into the Muppets, which is a tremendous relief. The writing and storyline utilizes simplicity, musicality, heart, and humor, which can vary from slapstick to satire to general chaos.
Some of the best laughs come from the more ridiculous bits, like when the gang "travels by map" and a line on a map takes them from California to France and ends with the car driving out of the ocean in Cannes. These crazy creatures mean so much to people of all ages that integrating a heartfelt scene devoted to what happened to Miss Piggy and Kermit's relationship in the past 10 years helps the audience connect with these felt figures on a more personal level. And, the 2011 Muppets stay true to the original format of the franchise with plenty of musical numbers - some better than others - that are drenched in a quality we'll just have to call "Muppetyness" at this point.
This Thanksgiving weekend I felt incredibly thankful for the return of those fantastic puppets that have burst back into pop culture. I couldn't help but smile and laugh through the entire film, showing that this is how you reinvigorate a beloved franchise.
Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams
and Chris Cooper
Directed by James Bobin