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‘The Muppets’ starring Jason Segal allows you to feel their magic all over again

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For a group who once brought so much happiness to people all around the world in their heyday, a dark cloud has been hanging over the Muppets since the sudden death of creator Jim Henson  in 1990. Having made three post-Henson movies (The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets in Space) under the shifting cultural tide of the 1990’s, this once proud and successful entity was in limbo for quite some time.

That is, until Jason Segal  (How I Met You Mother, I Love You, Man) approached Disney Pictures about the possibility of bringing the Muppets back to the big screen. With the powers that be at Disney skeptical of such a project for fear of tarnishing such a storied franchise, it’s needless to say this was a dicey proposition. So much to the point where even long time muppeter Frank Oz publicly voiced his disapproval of the project. Muppets article pic: screencrave.com

But sometimes gambles pay off, and 'The Muppets'  proves that in show business, every now and then your second act might be just as memorable at your first.

Take that, Statler and Waldorf!

In the film, Gary (Segal) and his puppet brother Walter (Yes, you read right. Just go with it.) are the best of friends. Walter was obviously different than the other kids growing up, but Gary always made him part of whatever he got involved in. So when Gary decides to take his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) on a trip to Hollywood, he decides to take Walter with him so he can see the Muppet Theater.

When Walter goes off on his own during the studio tour however, he overhears oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) and his plans to tear down the theater and drill for oil. The only way this can be prevented is if the Muppets buy back the theater- for $10 million dollars.

This prompts Walter, Gary, and Mary to track down Kermit the Frog, who has been living in seclusion in a Hollywood mansion for years to inform him of Richman’s plans. With a little convincing, they persuade Kermit to round up Fozzie, Gonzo, his estranged love interest Miss Piggy, and the rest of the Muppets to put on one last show to raise the money to try and save the theater. Much like in real life, the questions still remain as to whether the Muppets are relevant enough in the grand scheme of pop culture to where they can pull this off. Can the Muppets get the show ready in time? And will people remember them and come see the show?

In a way, the above seems like an interesting case of life imitating art. But in the end, ‘The Muppets’ has widespread appeal on multiple age levels for different reasons. It’s a piece of our childhood brought back to life before our very eyes that we can now share with today’s kids, who are normally accustomed to Xbox’s and overproduced Hollywood blockbusters. The gang is just how you remembered them, and older fans will come away feeling nostalgic with the references to the Muppets of old.

 

Cameos by Jack Black, Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, and even Mickey Rooney pay homage to previous Muppet films which featured the likes of Steve Martin, Telly Savalas, and Mel Brooks. Segal, who pulled double duty acting and writing the film, offers a strong story which sends a positive message. Moreover, the songs are funny and innovative, and the humor borderlines on playful to hilarious to borderline crude (depending on how offended you are by fart shoes!).

Nonetheless, the Muppets always manage to pull off the latter with such good nature that no offense is really taken. In fact, they’re really at their best when they poke fun at each other. The only parts of the movie you can do without are Adams’ musical numbers and Cooper’s rap, which are downright cringable at best.

If 1979’s The Muppet Movie proved the Muppets’ star power on the silver screen, The Muppets proves that no matter what age you are, Jim Henson’s creations are timeless, and still have a special place in the hearts of fans everywhere. Maybe it’s just the excitement of seeing them back on screen after such a prolonged absence, but The Muppets, while obviously not as groundbreaking as The Muppet Movie, is almost as equally charming in its own right, a quality The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan (the two sequels following the original film) couldn’t quite recapture.

With high expectations for The Muppets, we can only hope for a sequel sooner than later. After all, we’ve waited a long time, and the world seems like a better place with them around. And anytime you can forget about your troubles for an hour and a half and think about simpler times, that’s never a bad thing.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Homepage pic: joyhog.com

Thumbnail and article pic: screencrave.com