When I turned one, my parents birthed an obsession. For my birthday they gifted me with my first Kermit the Frog plush and the seed was forever planted. Over the past 31 years apparently I have not been the only one. I just don’t have the means to make a movie about it. Thankfully, a fellow obsessor by the name of Jason Segel does. With the help from his friend Nicholas Stoller, the two have joined forces with Flight of the Conchords co-creator James Bobin to finally bring us the film fans have been clamoring for since 1996’s Muppet Treasure Island with The Muppets.
Segel may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of someone to rebirth “kid’s” series. Making his way to stardom in R-rated raunch fests such as Bad Teacher, I Love You, Man, Knocked Up, and his own Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But bare in mind, it was probably Sarah Marshall that got him the job. His character Peter Bretter was also just a tad obsessed with puppetry and that film climaxed in one of the funniest puppet plays outside of anything Muppet related. It was no surprise to me when The Muppets was announced with Segel co-writing the screenplay alongside Stoller.
The Muppets immediately introduces us to brothers Gary (Segel) and Walter (Peter Linz). Walter just may be the Muppets’ biggest fan. He owns everything from the Kermit watch to just about every other piece of Muppet memorabilia ever manufactured. Gary has a girlfriend named Mary (Amy Adams). She teaches at Smalltown Elementary and the three are about to embark on a ten year anniversary trip to Los Angeles. Mary isn’t particularly ecstatic to have Walter tagging along but Muppet Studios is in Los Angeles and there’s no way they could not take Walter.
Upon arrival, they find out, much to their dismay that Muppet Studios has been condemned and the group has fallen out. Walter sneaks into Kermit’s (Steve Whitmire) old office where he overhears Waldorf (Dave Goelz) and Statler (Whitmire) explaining to oily Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) that if the Muppets can’t come up with $10 million in two weeks they forfeit the studio lot along with their franchise title. Walter eventually explains the situation to Gary and Mary then it’s off to find Kermit’s “mansion” to enlist the help from the only frog who can rally everyone up.
Soon enough, Gary, Mary, Walter, Kermit, Fozzie (Eric Jacobson), Sam Eagle (Jacobson), Rowlf (Bill Barretta), Beaker (Whitmire), Dr. Bunsen (Goelz), and Electric Mayhem, are together again. The only missing piece of the puzzle, of course, is the inclusion of Miss Piggy (Jacobson). After traveling by map to Paris, where Miss Piggy works at Vogue Paris, she falls for the old Muppet Man gag but she informs everyone that she’s sworn to never rejoin the group after they too had a falling out after getting married.
Back in L.A. the Muppets have decided they need to get that $10 million to take back their studio and keep their name. After CDE Executive (Rashida Jones) informs them that they just aren’t famous anymore, they coincidentally come up with the brilliant idea for a telethon after Junior CDE Executive (Donald Glover) tells her that their hit show “Punch Teacher” has been canceled and now there’s a two-hour black hole of programming to fill. Only catch is, they have to have a celebrity host. While Kermit wrings through his rolodex of celebrities and comes up empty, Miss Piggy stages a “celebrinap” and now it’s Jack Black to the rescue – even if against his will. But Tex Richman has his own nefarious plans to replace them all with Bizarro World versions called “The Moopets.”
Can the Muppets come up with the $10 million in time before the deed to the studio and their namesake expire at midnight? Will Gary finally ask Mary to marry him? Does Walter have what it takes to become a true Muppet himself? Can Chris Cooper rap? All this and more is answered in the most hilarious, heartfelt film of the year. The jokes pile high and everything works. Leave it to the Muppets to make cameos hilarious again. The film stays true to Muppet roots while managing to usher in a new audience. I’m completely convinced that every adult in the audience was probably more excited than their children ever could be for this new entry to the Muppet canon. And let’s not forget the brilliant new songs brought to life by director Bobin co-written by his Conchords cohort Bret McKenzie. Instant classics, every last one.
And The Muppets isn’t even upstaged by the laugh till you cry Toy Story Toons that’s attached. Yes, the toys are back and in “Small Fry” they’re touching on issues even better suited than tricking Barbie and Ken into thinking they’re on a Hawaiian vacation. While Disney and Pixar were lambasted for providing us their official weakest link in Cars 2 (which coincidentally is prominently featured on several billboards at least twice during the film), they both have completely redeemed themselves here. While Super 8 had been my favorite film of the year, I was waiting to see if The Muppets could beat it. And yes, this is most definitely the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational film of the year, if not years.
Photos courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures