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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 9, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 49
Muppets still make a rainbow connection
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Muppets still make a rainbow connection

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

The Muppets
Now Playing


Gary (Jason Segel) lives in Smalltown with his younger brother, Walter. He's in love with beautiful schoolteacher Mary (Amy Adams). Together, the trio is heading to Hollywood to visit the fabled Muppet Studios, the legendary home of Kermit the Frog, Fozzie the Bear, Miss Piggy, and all of the rest of the famous entertainers both Gary and (especially) Walter share a special affinity for.

It is there they learn that oil billionaire Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) intends on leveling Muppet Studios in order to get to the oil bubbling within the ground below. Not wanting to see this happen, Gary, Walter, and Mary seek out Kermit, persuading him to bring the estranged group of Muppets back together to put on one last show and save their collective legacy. It is a journey of discovery. It is a journey of hope. It is - for one of this trio, at least - a journey that will take them right into the lap of destiny, showing that rainbows do exist and the magic store is still open to anyone who truly believes in the impossible.

The Muppets is an awful lot of fun - that fact is unmistakable. Much like this summer's animated winner Winnie the Pooh, this return visit of a group of timeless characters who found themselves just a tiny bit outside the mainstream consciousness is a joy in almost every sense of the word. Seeing Kermit and company put The Muppet Show back on is undeniably awesome, and for any fan of Jim Henson's legendary creations, this is one motion picture that simply cannot be missed.

All the same, it must be admitted this new adventure (the group's first cinematic sojourn since 1991's relatively forgettable Muppets from Space), does take a bit of time to hit its stride. It spends a good 20 minutes introducing us to humans Gary and Mary and potential new Muppet Walter, giving them center stage for a great deal of the narrative's initial setup. While nothing here is bad, per se (it must be admitted the opening musical number and early trek through a dilapidated Muppet Studios are both exceedingly well done), that doesn't make the opening act of the film any less slow. As one pintsized member of my preview audience loudly proclaimed, 'Where are the Muppets?' - a statement I couldn't exactly hold against them as I was sitting there thinking the exact same thing.

But things do pick up as soon as Kermit arrives, and the moment he hooks back up with Fozzie and a montage reminiscent of The Muppet Movie is bravely suggested, the picture noticeably begins to gather momentum. Sure, the focus on Gary and Mary can at times feel out of place, but when the Muppets take center stage, the film achieves a rollicking energy and whimsy.

The last 30-40 minutes are easily the best, as Segel and fellow writer Nicholas Stoller's (Get Him to the Greek) script finally takes flight and becomes just the kind of Muppet extravaganza the group's creator would have been proud of. A couple of the musical numbers had me in absolute stitches (a group of chickens in particular having me clucking in such outright glee I was positive my belly was about to explode). It's one great moment after another, everything culminating in a perfectly self-aware way that holds so true to Henson's legacy I almost couldn't believe my eyes.

It will be interesting to see how The Muppets ends up performing with general audiences. The pacing problems and lack of early focus are undeniable, and the potential for the early portions to put younger audience members to sleep is definitely there. But all in all, Segel has done a marvelous job bringing back Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and all the rest to the big screen, and if this movie is even a modest hit, I imagine a sequel will be a foregone conclusion. 'Mahna mahna,' indeed.

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