The Muppets (2011)
“They’re closer than you think.”
Director: James Bobin
Cast: Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper
Synopsis: A Muppet fanatic with some help from his two human compatriots must regroup the Muppet gang to stop a avaricious oil mogul from taking down one of their precious life-longing treasures.
The problem faced by Disney when they decided to revitalise the Muppets was how to pitch the film to the potential audience – and exactly which audience to pitch it at. The last Muppet movie – Muppets in Space – was released in 1999, meaning that an entire generation of kids had grown up with little or no exposure to those endearing characters that a previous generation had grown up loving. The answer, then, was to appeal to the parents’ sense of nostalgia in order to capture all those little tykes who’d be dragged along to the cinema with promises of how much they’d enjoy these quaint, humorous puppets. After all, the parents needed a reason to go see a U certificate kids movie…
The Muppets, like us all, are feeling their age. Long disbanded, they have spread to various corners of America. Kermit is living a reclusive life in a dark mansion, Fozzie Bear is performing with a Muppets tribute band (The Moopets) in some seedy dive; Gonzo is a plumbing distribution baron, animal is undergoing anger management therapy with Jack Black, and Miss Piggy is the editor of a Paris fashion magazine. A reunion seems out of the question until Walter, a Muppet-style fan, informs Kermit that evil oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to demolish the old Muppet studio to drill for the black stuff. A cross-country – and international – quest to reunite the gang so that they can stage a telethon to raise the $10 million they need to save the studio follows.
While Kermit’s efforts to get everyone together again are entertaining, it’s only once we find ourselves in the familiar surroundings of the old Muppet theatre, and their infectious theme tune (’It’s time to start the music…’) begins to play that The Muppets really takes off. The film is enjoyably self-aware of both the Muppet’s own history and cinematic convention. For example, to save time, the characters choose to ’travel by map,’ and employ a montage sequence to show the recruitment of the lesser members of the troupe. The characters are as lovable as always, and while our love for them perhaps means we cut the quality of the humour a little slack at times, the genuine laughs still come often enough to keep all but the most critical of viewers content.