If you carry plenty of nostalgia for The Muppets and have been expectantly waiting for them to return to the big screen, you will be more than satisfied with this loving and respectful reboot of Jim Henson’s foam-filled creations. The Muppets is exactly what any self-respecting Muppet fan will want out of the movie. At the same time, the film holds little else of value for anyone who wasn’t weened on Kermit and company.
My only real childhood Muppet encounters were Kermit the Frog’s occasional appearances on Sesame Street. Perhaps screenwriters Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller anticipated this sort of generational divide, setting the story in a world where The Muppets are mostly forgotten, washed-up former stars. After a bit of extraneous set-up involving Segel’s very human Gary and his brother Walter (voiced by Sesame Street alum Peter Linz), who’s quite obviously a puppet (perhaps their milkman was Howdy Doody), the plot kicks in. After stumbling upon the diabolical plan of an oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who wants to tear down the old Muppet Theatre, it’s up to Walter, Gary and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to reassemble the Muppets and to put on a telethon. From there, your enjoyment of the film is wholly dependent on how much you’re on its wavelength of jokey Vaudevillian musical numbers and meta-humor.
Saying that, there’s nothing really wrong with the movie. The film is enjoyable, mostly due to lead Jason Segel, but less because of his schmaltzy character in the film and more because of his co-written script. This is a man who has regularly gone on record about his love of The Muppets, and this care is evident throughout the movie. Most of the best humor is drawn from inside jokes and postmodern fourth wall-breaking, all of it driven by a sense of wistful nostalgia. And that’s the whole point. Perhaps reboot is the wrong term to use for The Muppets, as its actually more of a reintroduction, as the whole purpose is to remind the world about The Muppets.
While the jokes are occasionally clever—and usually work better when there’s a degree of subtlety at hand—the litmus test really comes down to whether or not you can honestly care for the trials and tribulations of a foam pig, or if you can stomach the idea of hearing “The Rainbow Connection” for the billionth time. Fans will certainly be pleased, while everyone else—despite the film’s pleasantness—will still be left wondering what the big deal is. Rated PG for some mild rude humor.