In 2012, the Muppets have returned to much anticipation from adults the world over. Kids who haven’t been brought up on the franchise won’t care one way or the other, unfamiliar with the characters or the history. That is the huge issue confronting the potential for success for this repackaging of an old icon for a new generation. The writers Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller have evaded this perfectly, by introducing the Muppets to a new audience through the two lead characters and brothers, Walter (a new Muppet) and Gary (also played by Segel), who grow up with the TV series and fall in love with it. Building up the series from the ground up gets around the issue nimbly.
From there, Gary and Walter along with Gary’s long suffering Girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), head on out to Los Angeles. Gary and Mary are out there to have a celebratory meal of their 10 anniversary, Walter is there to see the Muppets and because his elder brother doesn’t want to leave him alone. From there, the story is centred on a complex contract that will void the deeds to the Muppet studios and the brand name after a certain amount of time if the gang don’t come up with 10 million dollars.
A loophole abused by Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a character so insane he doesn’t laugh he says *maniacal laugh*, a joke ran out of steam pretty quickly. This sets up a scenario where Walter along with Gary and Mary in tow, go on an adventure gathering together all the Muppets who have fallen from grace and reunite with their old studio to raise the money to save their name and studio.
In gathering together the Muppets we get to see old and familiar faces, whether it is Sam Eagle, Rowlf, Gonzo, Beaker, Animal, Fozzie or Miss Piggy. The old guard is here and on form as are less regular faces. The arcs tracing what those faces have done since their fall from grace is superb, with the two favourites being Fozzie and Animal. Animal is part of an anger management group along with Jack Black, which is clearly as close to a drug addiction clinic as is possible. Fozzie fronts a house band in a restaurant in Reno with the Moo-pets (a ragtag bunch of anti-Muppets) of which their Animal is Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) in a wig.
For a film that traces the fall from grace of a household name, the script has no issues shooting straight for the jugular. This may seem harsh, but the script is full of dialogue and psychical jokes that embody everything which made these characters such institutions. There’s no greater example than when the gang are selling their idea for a telethon to different TV studios, of which one executive points out how blunt she is in her rejections, to which Fozzie replies, “Yeesh. I wish she’d shot a little more curvy”. That ability to be both ruthless and hilarious in one line to the next is what makes the film such an unbound object of pleasure. A script that is self-aware and consistently funny comes out with an end product that will have anyone of a particular age perpetually tanned with a smile.
A portion of that credit has to go to Brett Mackenzie of Flight of the Concords fame. Mackenzie composed the songs, which are upbeat and memorable with that unmistakable Concords wordplay, look no further than the Oscar nominated “Man or a Muppet”. Mainstays also get a look in beside Mackenzie’s compositions with Rainbow connection playing an emotional role in the latter third.
All the disparate elements combine to make something which is continuously cheerful; the ability to keep a smile on the face of a cynical movie fan cannot be shirked at. Yes, there may be issues and plot holes. The resolution as to who Walter is, is undefined, many Muppets don’t get enough screen time (Rizzo and Pepe), the way in which Waldorf and Statler come around to the Muppets side is untold, Gary and Mary get a little too much screen time and the final resolution isn’t satisfying in terms beyond the huge crowd pleasing closer. To focus on those plot holes is missing the point; this is a film which makes the sun shine that bit brighter. This is happiness incarnate and there’s no greater recommendation you can give a film than that.