‘The Muppets’ is a film that defies expectations, not simply because it’s a joyously simple fun-filled caper that appeals to adults and children alike - a claim made all too often but rarely borne out - but also because it takes a thirty year plus franchise and not only reaps massive commercial but also critical success. And by critical, that doesn’t mean the media, who have almost universally given a thumbs up, but the packed cinema auditoriums ranging from toddlers to the elderly, all of whom have laughed, cried and cheered their way through 90 minutes of sheer unadulterated joy throughout a miserable cold winter.
For anyone reading this, the Muppets, Jim Henson’s anthropomorphic puppet/marionette creations, need no introduction. Since their first huge success in television’s ‘The Muppet Show’ over 30 years ago, the eclectic cast of wacky animals, humans, mythical creatures and lovable monsters have hardly left our screens in one form or another. They have always promoted a universal aura of fun and harmony, with a dash of knowing yet inoffensive humour. The new film, manages to be all of these things and more. A post modern caper that harks back to the very first ‘The Muppet Movie’ (1979) and sees the gang reassembling in a desperate attempt to stop evil tycoon Tex Richman from destroying their studio.
The real secret of the film’s success is the seemingly unlikely mastermind of screenwriter/star Jason Segel, who teams up with Nicholas Stoller, a pair most well known for adult comedies such as ‘I Love You, Man’ and ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’. From early on in the project’s development, Segel let his childhood love of The Muppets be known, and the plot embodies the undying love every adult still feels for their childhood heroes as Gary (Segel), his Muppet-like brother Walter and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) unwittingly set out on a mission to save the titular entertainers.
By and large, previous Muppet films have been successful in capturing the charm and unique appeal of Jim Henson’s creations, but where this new offering succeeds in truly reviving the spirit of their heyday is by bringing it back to where it all started with a plot that revives The Muppet Show itself. Characters who haven’t seen the light of day (in some cases literally) for thirty years pop up all over the place and anyone over thirty will find themselves smiling at long buried memories of pyjama clad Sunday evenings as long forgotten favourites are brought to vivid life. Even the long established tradition of the unlikely celebrity guest is revived with hilarious results courtesy of a seemingly reluctant Jack Black, who thrillingly resists the urge to steal the limelight from the show’s true stars.
‘The Muppets’ is a riotous success, with wit, charm and surprise cameos aplenty. You will leave the theatre with a true sense that everything is right with the world, and even if real life slowly comes back to bring you down, you’ll still be humming THAT tune for days afterward.
Robert Barton-Ancliffe is a very manly muppet.