For a while there, the Muppets were forgotten but not gone.
Sure, they’d pop up on television now and then but their last big-screen outing, Muppets from Space, quickly came and went from cinemas over a decade ago. And their ‘70s and ‘80s Muppet Show heyday seemed to be fading more and more into pop-culture history.
Everybody loves a comeback, though, right? And surely characters as once beloved as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear have earned a second stint in the spotlight after all the joy they’ve provided…right?
Let’s face it, there’s always a chance that a new generation isn’t going to embrace the icons of yesteryear. And what’s so clever about the new movie The Muppets is that it not only recognises that this could be the case, it makes it a pivotal plot point.
Because if there’s something everybody loves more than a comeback, it’s an underdog making a comeback.
Don’t be misled, though, because The Muppets does a lot more than shamelessly cater to the goodwill of the characters’ fans (although let’s be honest, it does do that a bit). It’s a bright, breezy musical comedy that provides plenty of laughs and one or two happy tears.
The story follows average guy Gary (How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the screenplay), his best gal Mary (Amy Adams) and his brother Walter – who just happens to be a Muppet – as they travel together to Hollywood.
A mega-fan of The Muppet Show, Walter is eager to do one thing in Hollywood: visit the studio where the Muppet magic was created.
He discovers to his horror, though, that their studio is empty, run-down and on the verge of being sold to evil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper).
Without $10 million to keep it from falling into Richman’s mitts, the history of the Muppets will be, well, history. But how to come up with the cash? Why, round up the old gang and put on a show, of course!
The crew behind the camera (including Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie, whose zingy, catchy songs make him this movie’s MVP) wisely recognise that nostalgia will only get them so far.
So they’ve jam-packed The Muppets with sly celebrity cameos and wry, wisecracking humour (which is actually in keeping with the original Muppets vibe) as well as plenty of nods to Muppet mythology.
The flesh-and-blood cast is great – there are few better at playing the big-hearted galoot than Segel, the only way Adams could be more adorable is if she carried a basket of puppies everywhere she went and Cooper…well, Chris Cooper has a musical number that must be seen to be believed.
Of course, there’s just as much personality in the performance of Kermit, Miss Piggy and their felt-covered friends. It’s nice to have them back.