Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor
Released in Theaters: Nov. 23, 2011
Genre: Family, Comedy, Sequel
Runtime: 98 minutes
Directed by: James Bobin
Cast: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Peter Linz, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman
Synopsis: When Muppet fans Gary, Mary and Walter learn that Tex Richman is planning to drill for oil under the vintage Muppet Theater, they decide to take action. They track down Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang and convince them to put on a show to save the old theater.
Sex/Nudity: Two Muppets make out when the power goes out. Kermit and Miss Piggy continue their complicated romance. Gary and Mary hold hands, hug and kiss innocently. When Scooter is tasked with taking over hosting duties, Kermit tells him to imagine the audience naked, which Scooter does, but the audience is wearing underwear. There’s also an odd scene where Jack Black’s face ends up in Miss Piggy’s crotch, but it’s not sexual.
Violence/Gore: Animal is in rehab for anger management. He goes berserk at the mention of certain words, and a big fight breaks out. A group of Muppets kidnap Jack Black and hold him hostage to host the telethon. Miss Piggy tackles a few Muppets, and Gonzo does some dangerous stunts. Also, Walter gets fried on an electric fence, but isn’t seriously injured.
Profanity: A few uses of “butt” and “oh God,” and mild insults like “idiot.”
Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 5 and older who like Sesame Street or Muppet characters.
Will Parents Like It? Yes, it’s an ultra-cute, totally family friendly movie. It will also bring back memories of the old Muppets TV show. There’s a teensy bit of rude humor, like Fozzie Bear’s “fart shoes,” but nothing overly crude.
Review: “It's time to play the music … It's time to light the lights … It's time to meet the Muppets on The Muppet Show tonight!” You’re smiling, aren’t you? Ok, if not, go back and read it again, only think of the old Muppets theme song when you read it.
The Muppets is one Big Happy from start to finish. It’s got splashy musical numbers, all of the old characters we know and love (along with a bunch of Hollywood celebrities), and a story that pays homage to the Muppets’ rich history and brings them into the modern-day spotlight.
Jason Segel wrote the screenplay along with Nicholas Stoller, and they couldn’t have done a better job of meshing old and new. Director James Bobin, who’s helmed shows like The Flight of the Conchords and Da Ali G Show, brings just enough edge to make the movie fun for both kids and adults, without sacrificing the PG rating. Well done, guys.
The story begins with Walter (a Muppet who doesn’t realize he’s a Muppet) growing up with his human brother Gary (Jason Segel) in Smalltown, U.S.A., a classic sitcom town with a Rexall Drugstore and downtown diner. Walter and Gary do everything together, and when Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) decide to celebrate their 10th anniversary together with a trip to Hollywood, they’re more than happy to have Walter come along.
That’s because Walter is the biggest Muppet fan in the world, and he’s super excited to visit the vintage Muppet Theater. Except when they get there, they find the place abandoned, and Walter overhears a big tycoon named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper, whom I first thought was miscast but now realize it’s genius casting) vowing to tear down the theater and drill for oil there.
Walter refuses to let that happen, so he, Gary and Mary track down Kermit at his Hollywood home. Together, they decide to round up the old gang and do a telethon to raise $10 million to save the theater. Fozzie Bear is doing a “Moopets” tribute show at a lounge in Reno. Gonzo is running The Royal Flush plumbing business. Animal is doing time at anger management rehab, with Jack Black as his appointed sponsor.
Miss Piggy is now the plus side editor for Paris Vogue, with Emily Blunt as her receptionist. Note that Blunt played a similar role in The Devil Wears Prada; casting like that is just one of the brilliant aspects of this movie. Another is Jim Parsons’ beautiful duet with Walter, who realizes he’s a Muppet at the same time Gary, with his Muppet alter-ego, realizes he’s a man.
The music is genius. In addition to the classic Rainbow Connection and original songs written by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie, we have AC/DC’s Back in Black in a montage to round up the Muppets, Starship’s We Built This City to restore the theater, and Cee Lo Green’s Forget You, only clucked by Muppet chickens. It’s so stupid, it’s hilarious, as is Chris Cooper’s rap song. It may be the one and only time you’ll ever see this iconic actor doing a rap song.
Everyone who’s anyone is in this movie, including Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrick Harris (who wonders why HE’s not hosting the telethon), Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Alan Arkin, and Andy Rooney, to name a few.
But some of the best lines come from the loveable frog Kermit, voiced with humble goodness by Steve Whitmire. I practically wept when he told the downtrodden Walter, “Just because you haven't found your talent yet doesn't mean you don't have one. I'm sure if you look inside yourself, you'll find something you're good at.” And when he told the despondent gang after the telethon: “Thanks to Walter, we tried. And if we failed, we failed together, and to me, that's not failing at all.” Seriously, I wanted to get out my wallet right then and there and send money to help save the Muppet Theater.
The Muppets is the feel-good movie of the year, one that will make you believe there’s still goodness in the world, still things worth fighting for, still a reason to get up every day. It also gives you hope that great family movies are still being made, even if they only come along once in a while.
Oh, if you’re wondering where Elmo is, that’s kind of a funny story. Jason Segel wrote a scene where they were trying to get Elmo to be the celebrity host of the telethon and a team of lawyers tells them no. During a recent appearance on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show, Segel said that’s exactly what happened. Apparently, when Disney bought the Muppets from Jim Henson’s estate in 2004, the Sesame Street characters remained with the Children’s Television Workshop. Crossovers have occurred, but studio attorneys decided against Elmo.
And, be sure to get into your theater seats in time to see the Pixar short before the movie. Small Fry tells the story of a support group for tossed-aside meal toys from Poultry Palace. The real Buzz Lightyear ends up in the group after a Buzz meal toy goes home in his place. It’s very cute, and Pixar’s creativity has not waned at all in recent years.
Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 Reels