Walking into the theater to see ‘The Muppets’ with my 6 year old daughter and 3 year old son, I hoped the three of us would have a magical ‘Toy Story’ experience. For me, it would be that strong sense of nostalgia being fulfilled and for my kids, an opening to a wonderful world of my past—and of great characters they too could enjoy. And to my great delight, ‘The Muppets’ delivered all of my wishes—and much, much more.
Introducing (and reintroducing, in some cases), a legendary property such as the Muppets is a huge—and risky—undertaking. And doing so requires writers, actors, and a director that truly understand the characters. Jason Segal (How I Met Your Mother) and Nick Stoller wrote a funny, heartfelt script that not only called upon their childhood memories of the Muppets, but helps younger generations quickly embrace the fuzzy fellows. Director James Bobin simply gets it—something many directors miss when rebooting a franchise.
But the best part of the movie comes in Bret McKenzie’s songs. Carefully woven throughout the story by Bobin, the music plays an integral part of the film. From a truly heartwarming duet between Kermit and Miss Piggy to a hysterical rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (which hilariously tortures a music-loving, kidnapped host Jack Black), McKenzie’s songs brought out a range of emotions from the audience.
The story centers around Gary (Segal) and his Muppet brother Walter (Peter Linz). Gary and Walter live in Smalltown America, and they’ve moved past the Muppets. And even though the brothers have moved on, they still love everything about the characters. Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) are headed to Hollywood to celebrate their anniversary, and because it’s Walters dream to visit Muppet Studios, they bring the little guy along.
Only when the trio reaches Tinseltown, they find a run-down Muppet Studios. The place is a mess, and it’s obvious to all that the world has forgotten the Muppets. After slipping away from Gary and Mary to view Kermit’s office, Walter discovers the Studios will be torn down and converted into an oil field by bad guy Tex Richman (masterfully played by Chris Cooper) unless the Muppets can raise 10 million dollars to buy the land.
With that, Gary, Mary and Walter—and a reluctant Kermit—pull the gang back together to attempt to rescue Muppet Studios. The result is a fun and endearing ride—and a reminder to all of us that just because something was good in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be great again.
Now that the Academy Awards has expanded up the Best Picture nominations to 10 films, there is no reason ‘The Muppets’ shouldn’t make the cut. Fan or not of the franchise, anyone would be hard pressed not to include this movie on a 10 Best Films list for 2011. Kudos to all. Let’s hope there is more to come.