Jim Henson’s much-loved Muppets have disappeared from the silver screen for some time. Since 1999’s Muppets from Space, there hasn’t been a theatrical release from the furry characters. Sure, there’s been television specials It’s a Very Merry Muppets Christmas Movie, and also Muppets Wizard of Oz – but their prominence in popular culture has diminished. No longer are kids aware that being green isn’t easy.
Come 2011 and it’s up to Jason Segel to revitalise the Muppets. His job, as he chose to accept it, was to make the Muppets cool again. Obviously, that was going to be no small feat. For twelve years they’ve had no real impact. To accomplish his goal, Segel approached Disney with an interesting concept that reflected on their cultural status.
The Muppets focuses on their diminishing popularity, and in an attempt to save their old film studio from the ‘evil’ Tex Richman, the Muppets have to raise $10 million. To achieve this, they get back together to raise money through a special television show. They’re aided by Segel’s character Gary, his partner Mary (played by the amiable Amy Adams) and his onscreen brother Walter.
The film boasts a large selection of songs, written by the great Bret McKenzie (one of the Kiwis in Flight of the Conchords). The clever songwriting matches the film perfectly, as wondrously happy songs are sung throughout. Gary and little brother Walter, open with a catchy tune, setting the colourful tone for the rest of the film.
In true Muppets fashion, the jokes are whacky, sincerely self-reflective and they tend to break that infamous, invisible fourth wall. The laughs are aplenty. The writers of the film inject that very special kind of Muppet humour, and thankfully even in this day and age, it works perfectly. Look out for the sweet cameos throughout, especially Dave Grohl’s short appearance.
The Muppets may be a contender for one of the best films of this year, which is a bold statement. Whilst the story may sound simplistic, it essentially works purely due to the fact that it reflects on the Muppets recent history. Cameos aren’t overdone, the comedy is genuinely funny and the performances have a lot of heart to them.
It is a fine return to form, as it harks back to their popular television series and earlier films, reminding the public that they’re still alive and they’re as fun as ever. After watching The Muppets, viewers will be left with wide grins and they’ll also be left wondering why these loved characters ever disappeared from our cinemas in the first place.