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The Muppets - Review

The Muppets

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

WHENEVER Hollywood decides it’s going to revive any affectionately held set of characters fans of the originals almost inevitably tend to hold their breath. Can the magic ever be fully recaptured? Or will the new-look versions tarnish the memory of what’s gone before?

In the case of The Muppets, it’s clear that the brains behind their revival have come to it with the right kind of approach. No mere cash-in, this is an affectionate homage to a great set of characters that’s both nicely reverential and forward-thinking enough to make them relevant all over again for a new generation.

And it’s Jason Segel who must take a lot of the credit. A life-long Muppet fan, Segel came up with the idea of reviving Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy for an all-new big screen adventure that both rewarded their existing fan-base while reaching out to newcomers.

In doing so, he has managed to bridge the gap between generations in a way that Pixar consistently do.

The Muppets plays to both adults and kids alike. It’s funny in a knowing, reverential and sometimes adult way, as well as in an honest, affectionate and harmless one. It’s also an emotionally fulfilling journey.

The plot is simplistic and sometimes over-stretched. But the manner in which it is achieved, even at a little under two hours, feels fresh and consistently rewarding.
When three Muppet fans (Segel, Amy Adams and Walter) discover a plan by a greedy oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) to tear down the old Muppet Theatre, they resolve to reunite The Muppets for a telethon aimed at saving the historic venue.

The ensuing comedy-drama is packed with all the things you’d expect from a Muppet movie… great cameos, brilliant songs and a sharp sense of humour.

All the fondly remembered characters are back, too, whether it’s the obvious ones such as Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo and Animal to the cult favourites such as The Swedish Chef, Dr Bunsen and Honeydew.

And each gets a moment (sometimes several) to shine in some way… whether it’s via their brilliant re-introductions or their performance moments during the re-staged Muppets Show that brings proceedings to a close.

The new central characters, too, treat the material just right, seldom hogging the spotlight for too long, but feeling as though they fit right into the universe. Walter, the new Muppet character, is a realistic addition to the cast whose own journey from ‘odd brother’ to bona fide Muppet performer is both funny and moving.

But Segel is great as Walter’s brother, hitting the right mix of wide-eyed wonder and resolute determination, while Adams revisits the charm and charisma she brought to her previous Disney outing, Enchanted.

Admittedly, the story arc between these latter two characters is slightly predictable but even then Segel, with help from co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin, manages to avoid making things feel too contrived by tossing in some inspired gags and musical breakdowns. The songs, by Bret McKenzie, are fun and quite frequently inspired.

Indeed, it’s a measure of the film’s success that even the more cringe-inducing moments (such as Chris Cooper rapping or travelling by map) somehow feel appropriate and within context, while the charm factor is so high and so utterly contagious that even the most cynical viewer should be won over come the end.

For life-long Muppets fans, meanwhile, this is manner from heaven… a near-perfect revival that recalls all that was great about those characters while setting up the tantalising possibility of further adventures to come. It’s a brilliant movie that offers genuine appeal to viewers of every age.

Certificate: U
Running time: 103mins
UK Release Date: February 10, 2012