November 22, 2011


We all know the Muppets.  They may not be as ubiquitous and popular as they once were, but we know them and we love them because they’re delightful characters who appeal to kids and adults alike with their mixture of slapstick, strangeness, satire, and singing.  The Muppets‘ director James Bobin and co-writers Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel (the latter of whom also co-stars) never forgot what makes Jim Henson‘s creations so special and this deep respect creates a movie that will introduce Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and the whole gang to a new generation, and make the older generation fall in love with the Muppets all over again.

Gary (Segel) and Walter are brothers even though Walter is a muppet (the film wisely doesn’t explain how this happened).  Walter’s not really sure about his place in the world, but then he sees The Muppet Show and it changes his life.  Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and everyone else are Walter’s heroes and in his wildest dreams he hopes of one day becoming a Muppet (the capitol “M” denoting the stars of The Muppet Show).  When Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) take a trip to Los Angeles, Gary brings Walter along so they can all take a tour of the Muppet Studios (somewhat to the chagrin of Mary who would like some one-on-one time with her boyfriend).  However, when the trio reaches the studios, they find that it’s become dilapidated and the Muppets have disbanded.  Walter thinks it couldn’t get any worse until he overhears a sinister conversation between some muppets and oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) who want to tear down the studio in order to get to the oil underneath (maniacal laugh).  It’s up to Walter, Gary, and Mary to bring the Muppets back together so they can stage a telethon and raise the $10 million to save the studio.


It’s a getting-the-gang back together plot and it’s ingenious because the movie is trying to appeal to two audiences: the young kids who probably only recognize muppets from Sesame Street (and those aren’t THE Muppets), and the adults who remember the TV series, the old movies, and everything in between.  The movie spends the first half bringing everyone back together and showing how most of the Muppets have turned their backs on who they are.  Fozzie is now performing in Reno with “The Moopets”, Gonzo is a plumbing magnate, and Animal is in anger management.  At least Miss Piggy has found a perfect diva lifestyle in Paris as the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, but she and Kermit feel incomplete without each other even though they’ve grown apart.  This introduction/re-introduction brings the characters to a new audience while providing plenty of in-jokes and references that will remind older fans why the world of the Muppets is so magical.

The movie also appeals to both age groups through its diverse humor.  The kids are going to laugh at the slapstick, the funny voices, and the goofiness, and the adults are going to enjoy all those things plus the satire, the breaking of the fourth wall, the clever wit, the throwaway but totally bizarre one-liners, and a few gags that no kid will get (or at least shouldn’t get) but have older audience members doubled over in laughter.  It’s a serious challenge to balance all of these comic styles, but the movie holds it together with a central concept: you can be smart and silly.  Silliness is usually perceived as an immature kind of comedy and so lazy writers make it go hand-in-hand with stupidity.  The Muppets proves that’s a false corollary, and the filmmakers have delivered intelligent, consistent, and fast-paced comedy that’s expertly performed by both human and muppet cast members.


Jason Segel co-wrote an incredibly generous movie when you consider that he’s one of the stars.  I can imagine that anyone who didn’t truly appreciate the Muppets would have expanded their own role, but Segel gives the movie over to his felt-and-foam cast-mates.  He has an enchanting enthusiasm, a warm, energetic, and cuddly persona coupled with a gigantic smile, and you’ll be won over the moment he begins singing the opening number “Life’s a Happy Song” (which deserves an Oscar for Best Song).  But while Gary has his own subplot, Segel knows this movie should belong to The Muppets, and he trusts his and Stoller’s script, Bobin’s direction, the music, and the muppeteers.

Watching the old Muppets together, it’s interesting to see how new technology has allowed the characters to do new movement that was a marvel thirty years ago (for example, the bicycle scene in The Great Muppet Caper), but audiences will be surprised to learn how much was still done practically.  However, the development in muppet technology provides an unintended contrast when you see a new muppet like Walter side-by-side with Kermit.  It wasn’t until this movie that I realized the limitations of Kermit’s expressions since he has no eyelids, and he lacks the costume decoration of his muppet co-stars (except when he’s wearing a tuxedo).  But in an odd way, Kermit doesn’t need it.  He’s the leader of the gang and that’s enough to let him stand side-by-side with his more expressive muppet co-stars.


The return of the Muppets isn’t without some minor flaws.  There’s sure to be some complaints from Muppets aficionados who will argue that the movie isn’t faithful enough to the TV series or the movies, but The Muppets has remained true to the defining qualities of these characters, and a large part of the comedy comes from playing off their well-known personalities.  Less debatable is the use of Mary who doesn’t get much of a character arc.  Her inclusion is solely based on her relationship to Gary and even her song “Me Party” (the weakest song in the film) comes off like a self-delusional attempt at empowerment.  It’s a bit of a waste considering Adams’ enormous comic and vocal abilities, but she makes the most of her one-dimensional character.

Thankfully, both Mary and Gary take a backseat (sometimes literally) to the Muppets.  This is their movie and it’s marvelous to see how you can take simple characters and make their comedy fit into so many different styles, but keep the same warmth and affection throughout.  The Muppets is based on the premise that the world had forgotten the characters.  The movie shows we only forgot how much we loved them.

Rating: A-


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  • Frederico Silva

    Sounds promising!

  • Django3000

    Man. Hate to say it, but Amy Adams can sell me on just about ANYthing. (Even this upcoming Superman film by Hack Snyder)

    Kidding aside, I’m stoked to bond w/ loved ones over the new muppets reunion flick. Woe be to the naysayers – they’re just jealous b/c they didn’t get carte’blanche to make it themselves!

  • grittymcgritterson

    I feel completly alone is my strong distaste for Jason Segal. I know, you all love him, Forgetting sarah marshall and all that….but he has a faux naive lovebility that annoys me. when I heard he was writing a muppet movie and then heard he was putting himself as starring role, it just smacks of overt oppurtism, “ill reinvent the muppets with me up front!” anyway i hope he doesnt get in the way of this because those are some of the best characters ever created. heres hoping.

  • Max

    This is not a review of this film. As a longtime fan of the Muppets, both on TV and film, It’s difficult to accept this “new” group of Muppets. Sure, they all look the same, but the original voices, personalities, writers and creators that made the “original” Muppets so great are long gone. Jim Henson, Richard Hunt and Jerry Juhl are dead, and Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Jack Burns are retired. The only original performer left is Dave Goelz (Gonzo). Though Steve Whitmire has been with the Muppets since the 1970′s, his Kermit just never did it for me.
    My opinion is that these classic Muppets; Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie etc. are over. They ended in 1990, when Jim Heson died. The characters should never have been brought back after that. The Henson company should have created all new characters for all the new performers. This has been my opinion for over 20 years.

    • nNark

      Yes, I posted similar thoughts on my Facebook page. I wondered what it was I was missing, since this film is so hotly-anticipated by so many. Kermit’s voice often veers into bad-amateur impression, and Segels eyes strangely don’t seem to connect with the puppets – by a long shot! I also have a problem with the basic setup: that the world has “forgotten” the Muppets and they’ve become irrelevant. Since the story takes place within our reality, this just doesn’t wash.

      I like the subversive elements (the rendition of “that song” that is NOT kid-friendly is a hoot!) and much of the smart gags, but yeah, Dave Goelz can’t save this movie. Henson has been gone for long enough that the characters really should have evolved into a more cohesive (read: true-to-form) entity by now, but I don’t know…. it was good, not great.

  • Rod

    The hype for this movie is incredible, and I get the feeling that no movie critic out there has the balls to be honest about it. Because I saw it, and it’s just meh. It drags terribly in some parts, the voice of Fozzie Bear is AWFUL, and the ending is pretty confusing. I think nostalgia is winning out over people’s tastes, or something. I’d give the film a C. (And my son, age 8, was bored silly watching it).

    • Wladi

      Of course ur 8 yr old kid was bored silly, I bet he must be a play station or Xbox junkie who also loves stupid tv programs like hanna montana…I also bet he enjoyed the transformers movies like his parents did…

      • brandon

        Well said, sir.

    • terry

      Yeah, this shit is going to bomb big time.
      The Muppets are long gone baby. Sad. Gone like my childhood.
      And how the hell did Rashida Jones get into this movie?
      Hollywood always seems to throw her ass in, somewhere.
      I bet you that’s her as that little figure in the background in that still photo from the Dark Knight Rises where Bat is about to rope a dope with Bane. Yeah, that’s her alright.

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  • M. Joe

    Dürgő Renátó a NASA szóvivője egy sajtótájékoztatón megerősítette, hogy VAN ÉLET A FÖLD másik oldalán. A közlemény után pánik lett úrrá a világ EGYIK felén.

  • Sojourner

    Rich Texman = George Bush parody…(sigh)

    Sick of the Hollyweird politics creeping into every film these days…especially when the subject material is meant to be lighthearted. Why not parody an evil socialist/idealist group who vandalizes and harasses hardworking businesses and citizens all in the name of “fairness”.

  • Elena

    I will be honest. Just got back from the afternoon screening. This movie is a disaster. It is depressing, slooooow moving, there is toilet humor, fart humor, homeless humor, and horriffic acting. The voices were excellent, but you have Amy Adams , John Krakowski ( sp ? ) Emily Blunt and they are dead as fish. Jason Segal was painful to watch. There was no
    ” muppet wit ” which was the best part , and the jokes were flat, and the story line flatter. My GOD it was depressing. even my 7 year old was not having fun. Sorry to be a downer, but this is a horrible horrible comeback. The Muppets died with Jim Henson. This is not what the Muppets were, or should be. Sorry. It’s not good.

  • Lusey

    I don’t know where half of these comments talking about how bad the movie was came from.
    I just saw the movie yesterday. The theater was full (from toddlers to elderly), and the whole crowd was laughing and enjoying the movie.
    The younger kids were quiet in the serious bits, but you could sure as hell hear them when a character like the Swedish Chef came out and did some silly gag.
    The older people (and I, though I don’t think I’d count as old lol) were certainly enjoying seeing all the references to the original stuff along with “F*ck You” by Cee Lo Green sung in cluck-language by chickens.

    The story may have been a little iffy in places, but it sure as hell kept the audience entertained, so as a person who grew up knowing the Muppets (a 90′s kid knowing about the Muppets? unheard of!), I think they did a fantastic job.

  • Yup

    Anyone who hates on this movie deserves the same fate as those that love Twilight or Hitler… a grisly demise.


  • Jonas

    I’m 34 years old, and loved The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper. After that, I kind of lost interest in The Muppets. They became a property more for kids, and everything was really dumbed down. When I heard about this new movie, I was skeptical, as I thought it was going to be another Muppet Treasure Island or Muppets In Space. I wasn’t expecting much, and figured the hype was due to fanboys seeing their beloved childhood creatures back on the screen.
    Well, I loved it. My wife and i went to a matinee yesterday, and the theatre wasn’t packed, but it was quite a range of ages, probably from about six years old to seventy-five. Not everyone laughed at every joke, but every joke was laughed at by a good chunk of the audience. It wasn’t Citizen Kane, but I thought it was a very thoughtful movie, that was self-aware, which was genious. They were smart to acknowledge their history, and the fact that they’d gotten stale.
    It’s a tricky thing to maintain the core of these great characters and still appeal to a younger audience. But in my opinion, they did it.
    People are complaining about the fart joke in the film, but I didn’t find it was that far outside the realm of Fozzy Bear’s humour.
    Plus, some of those early Muppet Show episodes had some very sexual overtunes, and some low brow gags. The Muppet Show always presented itself as a low-rent variety show with a gang of weirdos. Some of the later films softened that fact to sell the property to kids, but this film strikes a nice balance. I didn’t feel talked down to. I felt they really respected the history of the Muppets, and though the film is heavy on nostalgia, it is sweet and sincere, and I’m glad they didn’t just make them all wear sunglasses and ride skateboards. These are the Muppets you love, and they acknowledge that maybe they6′re getting a little long in the tooth. The pacing of the movie, and some of the writing, is done with modern audiences in mind, but those who grew up with the Muppets in the ’60s and ’70s aren’t left behind either – there is a lot of fan-service here, and Segel and company clearly did their homework.
    (The only things I missed was an appearance by Steve Martin, that seemed hinted at, and Clifford, who wasn’t mentioned at all!)
    It’s a fairly simple, sweet film with a lot of humour and heart. If you can’t enjoy that, maybe the Muppets just aren’t for you. I for one am glad they can still make movies like this in such a cynical, A.D.D. world.