By Louis Sullivan
‘It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets…” So begins the theme song of the classic 1970’s-era “Muppet Show” and so too begins the real action of 2011’s “The Muppets.” A staple of 70’s and 80’s entertainment, Jim Henson’s Muppets have been absent from the silver screen for more than ten years, since Muppets from Space was released in 1999. Older fans, raised on their madcap antics, have sorely missed them, while a younger crowd, to whom the film is equally directed, may be less familiar with Kermit the Frog and his zany cohorts.
“The Muppets,” under the masterful guidance of devoted Muppet fan Jason Segel, caters to both audiences perfectly. For the old-school folks, there are countless allusions to The Muppet Show, ample nods to the fame that the Muppets once enjoyed (and hopefully will again), and revisited musical favorites like “Mahna Mahna,” the aforementioned “Muppet Show Theme,” and “Rainbow Connection,” the tune that started it all in The Muppet Movie of 1979.
For those to whom the Muppet culture is fresh, there are several celebrity cameos in “The Muppets”. These include turns from “The Office’s” Rashida Jones and John Krasinski, and “The Hangover’s” Ken Jeong and Zach Galifianakis. Toe-tapping musical numbers like the opening duet, “Life’s A Happy Song” and the moving “Pictures in My Head,” add to the lures. And finally, there’s Walter.
Walter is a brand new Muppet who was introduced for this movie. More than any other character in “The Muppets” he seems to represent exactly what this film stands for. Somehow, he manages to bridge the gap between old and new Muppet fans by providing a fresh face for newcomers to familiarize themselves with, while establishing, within the first five minutes of the film, that he is indeed a Muppet fan himself – a sentiment that is certain to delight old time Muppet fans.
The Muppets follows Walter in his quest to get the Muppets back together after they’ve gone their separate ways. He tries to reunite the old gang for one last show, so they can raise $10 million to buy back Muppet Studios from greedy tycoon Tex Richman (played by Chris Cooper) who wants to destroy the property for oil. However, Walter’s twin goals— inspiring the Muppets to regroup, and actually raising the money— prove quite difficult, and Walter, his brother Gary (Jason Segel), Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), and of course, Kermit the Frog, all end up on a madcap journey of uplifting self-discovery.
“The Muppets,” with its touching emotion, laugh-out-loud comedy, and show-stopping musical numbers, greatly exceeded my expectations. It not only blends perfectly with the fantastic Muppet canon already in existence, but also serves as an excellent introduction to Jim Henson’s hilarious and heartwarming characters. Whether it’s your first time meeting the Muppets, or a long-overdue revisit, “The Muppets” is definitely worth seeing!
“The Muppets” opens nationwide on November 23.