I had forgotten how much I love the Muppets until I was sitting in the cinema watching this in a warm bath of nostalgia, washing myself down with the soap of good memories and scrubbing with the scrubber of happy times and remembered how much I loved them.
The Muppets are great and we all love them, we’ve just forgotten about them. This is the central device for Jason Segel’s superbly clever screenplay, which pitches himself and “muppet or a man” brother Walter as super Muppet fans who attempt to reunite the old gang so they can save the Muppet studios from evil oil tycoon Tex Richman (the brilliant Chris Cooper).
It’s your typical “raise the money and save the town” plot, but deliberately and consistently pokes fun at its own cliches, with the sort of fourth-wall breaking jokes we’ve come to expect from Muppet movies. But the self-referencing rarely goes too far and doesn’t detract from the film’s heart. It was clear even in Forgetting Sarah Marshall that Segel has a deep-rooted genuine adoration for these characters and his enthusiasm and affection transfers beautifully from page to screen.
This is aided by some superbly memorable and hilarious musical numbers, created by one half of the kings of musical comedy, Brett McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords. In particular “Muppet or a Man” and “I’ve Got Everything I Need” are standouts.
The only weak link is Amy Adams, who should have been perfect as the doughy eyed, cheesy-singing girlfriend after her great performance in Enchanted, but falls strangely flat. She seems bored throughout and her few scenes by herself are the worst of the movie.
But the real stars are obviously the titular puppets and it is joyous to see them all again. It’s almost like they haven’t aged a day. They’re all as funny as ever and Kermit offers such a heartfelt performance that I’m going to campaign for a best puppet category to be created for the Oscars.
Funny, creative and strangely inspiring, The Muppets lives up to all its potential and answers one of the film’s central questions: Yes, they still have a place in the 21st century and yes, we’re glad to have them back.