According to the new Muppet movie, I’m a freak of my generation.
The underlying theme of the Jim Henson gang’s newest flick is that the Muppets just aren’t famous anymore. In a world of mind-numbingly dumb culture, big-hearted and sincere Muppets no longer have the world’s attention.
Or so they think.
I grew up on Mahna Manha. I can list the best guests The Muppet Show ever had (George Burns, Lily Tomlin, Julie Andrews, Cloris Leachman and Madeleine Kahn are the first few that come to mind). Miss Piggy is a fixture in my house, as is Kermit, Gonzo the Great and Waldorf and Statler. Perhaps that’s the reason I enjoyed the movie so much; chalk-full of jokes dating back to the days of their primetime show, only true fans will get some of the funniest parts of the movie.
The movie starts after the Muppets have all gone their separate ways. Kermit lives in Beverly Hills. Fozzie’s working Reno with “The Moopets.” Gonzo is the nation’s richest plumbing magnet. Miss Piggy is in Paris, doing the only job any of us could see her doing: fashion editor at Vogue (with Emily Blunt as her secretary, of all things).
After Richman, an oil tycoon, threatens to demolish the Muppet Studios to drill a new well, it’s up to the Muppets and their new friends, Gary, Mary and Walter, to put together a telethon to raise the money to buy back the property. And they do so with every ounce of Muppet charm they have.
Miss Piggy never looked finer, and Kermit still has a face far more expressive than his unchanging eyes might hint. Fozzie tells the same bad jokes he has since the seventies. Gonzo still has a nice roost of hens.
The humans in the flick are the same way; while the original Muppet Movie included cameos of 1979, like Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Elliot Gould and everyone’s favorite, Steve Martin, the new updated version of The Muppets has a slew of cameos.
Neil Patrick Harris, John Krazinski, Alan Arkin, Zach Galifanakis, Sarah Silverman, Nirvana/Foo Fighter’s David Grohl, Whoopi Goldberg and a favorite TV nerd of mine, Jim Parsons, are just a few of the A-list hitting the screen with the fur-list.
But what of the main stars? Chris Cooper, whom I’ve never seen as anything but an antagonist, does great as usual, even throwing in some odd rapping to continue the tradition of the Muppet musical. Amy Adams is as Muppet as any actress out there, and she continues being totally adorable, despite her age (37 if you can believe it!) showing through.
Writer, producer and human star Jason Segel is the perfect Muppet man. There’s even a song where he debates whether he’s a manly Muppet or a “Muppet of a man.” He nails it between the colorful job he does in the musical numbers, his comedic timing and warm reception toward the rest of the cast, both human and fur.
What “The Muppets” does, however, is smart, and I give screenwriter Segel a lot of credit for this: it forces you to buy the whole Muppet premise immediately through one detail. Gary (Segel) has a Muppet brother. No, this isn’t a case of adoption. This is a case of the Muppet world and human world meshing beautifully together.
In song, laughs and heartwarming moments, the film continues the integrity of what Jim Henson started in the 1970s: it takes puppets and makes them so human that Kermit is no longer a piece of felt, but a character.
The verdict: Jim Henson would be proud of Segel and the score of people involved in the production of Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang’s newest big screen adventure. If you’re a true fan, make your way to the theatre today.