Now Playing: Wocka Wocka! ‘The Muppets’ Are Back!

The Muppets have always been an eclectic little group of characters whose comedy requires an acquired taste. Given my strong review for their new movie, simply titled ‘The Muppets’, you could easily jump to the conclusion that I am and have always been part of that fan base. In reality, it’s the opposite. Aside from little segments with the characters here and there, the most attention I’d ever given the Muppets was a regular dose of watching ‘Muppet Babies’ on Saturday mornings as a kid. Therefore, this is an outsider’s review.

My excitement for ‘The Muppets’ began when I learned that Jason Segel had co-written the script. Seeing what Segel did with puppets in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘ got me interested in what he’d do with a family-friendly version. I grew even more excited when I learned that ‘Sarah Marshall’ director Nicholas Stoller was the second author of the ‘Muppets’ screenplay. The first trailer, jokingly called ‘Green with Envy‘, was hilarious, but it was the ‘Pig with a Froggy Tattoo‘ spoof trailer that really got me rolling. I went into ‘The Muppets’ with high expectations and not only had them met, but exceeded.

The movie plays off the history of the Muppets themselves. They once were huge, adored and beloved, but now they’re mostly lost and forgotten. The movie opens with two young brothers, Gary and Walter. It’s obvious that Gary will grow up to be the Jason Segel character, and Walter is… a Muppet. How human parents give birth to a Muppet child is beyond me. Just go with it. As Gary gets bigger, Walter stays small and realizes from an early age that he doesn’t quite fit in. Once he discovers the Muppets’ variety show on television, he finds his place in life. He wants to be one of the Muppets.

When Gary decides to take his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles for their tenth anniversary, he brings Walter along too so that he can finally fulfill his dream of touring Muppet Studios. Walter’s hopes and dreams are shattered when he sees the run-down old dump. Dealing with the harshness of this letdown, Walter sneaks off into Kermit’s old office, where he overhears a greedy oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) explaining his plot to tear down the studio. The only way to save it is by raising $10 million within one week. Together, Walter, Gary and Mary set off to find and reunite the estranged Muppets, and help them prepare a telethon to raise the needed dough.

I expected ‘The Muppets’ to be funny, but not this funny. It’s hilarious. Non-stop comedy. The witty, genius dialog provides more than enough laughs for the adults, while the silly physical humor will keep kids entertained too. The musical numbers are downright brilliant. Several of them were written by Flight of the Conchords bandmate Bret McKenzie. As you would hope and expect, the songs are mini-music videos like those in the Conchords’ TV show. For those Conchords fans who miss the series, this is the probably closest you’re ever going to get to new episodes. Both lyrically and visually, McKenzie’s tracks are trademark Conchords material.

I also didn’t expect so many cameos. Rashida Jones, Alan Arkin, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Jim Parsons, Kristen Schall, Sarah Silverman, Donald Glover, Emily Blunt, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Dave Grohl, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch, John Krasinski and Mickey Rooney all play small bit parts, and there’s one big actor who makes a surprise performance as a major player in the film. Since his name doesn’t appear in the IMDb credits, I’ll refrain from spoiling that one for you.

If you’re like me and don’t want to watch Christmas movies until December officially begins, save ‘Arthur Christmas’ for next week and take the family to see ‘The Muppets’ this week. Aside from running a little long, it’s a perfect family film for Thanksgiving.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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