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Review

‘The Muppets’ return with a bang

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December 9, 2011

The Muppets are such a curious property. They’re often mistaken for something for the much younger crowd. They’ve appeared in all sorts of styles and genres, including baby form. They’ve already suffered through at least one failed revival and it will be interesting to see if the latest try sticks.

The most interesting thing about the Muppets, is that I’ve never been exposed to anyone that only sort of liked the Muppets. It’s either full on fanboys and fangirls or complete indifference. Sometimes, disdain. I can’t think of another franchise like that.

That fanboyism is readily apparent in star and co-writer Jason Segel as we see his character Gary and his brother, Walter (who for some unexplained reason is actually a Muppet), grow up together in Smalltown, USA. Walter knows there’s something a bit off about himself, but finds refuge in reruns of The Muppet Show.

Segel brings the same earnestness he brings to his character on “How I Met Your Mother” to everything he does in “The Muppets,” from the way he watches out for Walter to his sugar sweet relationship with Amy Adams’ character Mary. Sincerity is one of this movie’s biggest strengths, and obviously jibes with the rest of the franchise.

The Muppets have long since been forgotten by everyone but Gary and Walter, until a fateful day when Walter discovers that the old Muppet Theatre is going to be destroyed by Tex Richman, a menacing oil tycoon played with all sorts of evil glee by Chris Cooper, so that he can drill for oil… because of course there’d be large deposits of oil under an old theatre in Hollywood.

Walter pulls Kermit out of his slump and they decide to get the band back together and put on a show to raise enough money to buy back the theatre. This leads to one of the best parts of the movie as the gang travels around the country collecting the members of the Muppets. The audience gets snippets of backstory and learn what all of the Muppets have been up to over the years, culminating in an amazing gag with Rowlf the Dog.

Being a fan of the Muppets might be the make or break for a lot of people if they’re going to see this, but there’s enough going on in “The Muppets” and enough clever celebrity cameos that it should appeal to people who don’t get super excited just because someone says “It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights.”

The music in “The Muppets” is a lot of fun. Fans of Flight of the Conchords will be happy to hear that Brett McKenzie was the music supervisor for the film. You’ll almost certainly leave humming a few bars of one of the songs. From the opening, elaborately choreographed opener all the way through the performances for the telethon, they’re almost all winners, except for an ill-advised rap that comes off as way more Flight of the Conchords than The Muppets.

Some might complain that there’s a little too much Jason Segel and not enough Muppets, but I thought the balancing act was handled better than it could have been. While Gary and Walter get a lot of screen time, Kermit and Miss Piggy get a really unique and interesting story that sort of turns their normal dynamic on its head.

“The Muppets” is an exceptionally fun movie with a lot of heart, and that’s pretty rare nowadays. It’s got a unique sense of humor to offer at a time when most comedies are either full of gross-out gags or just plain dumb humor. This is a clever movie with some fun music and endearing characters. It’s good to have the Muppets back.

Chris Rohling is a journalism major with a passion for storytelling in almost every medium.