MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
Like many children, I grew up with Jim Henson’s characters. Sesame Street was a regular fixture in my early morning schedule, beginning at 6am on Channel 4 as well as owning and rewatching many video recordings of anything Muppets related. These are characters with charm impossible to resist and comedy a notch above your standard kiddies fare. After an extended absence, The Muppets are back on the big screen and the world is better for it, but while it isn’t quite the tour de force it could have been, it has plenty of smiles, joy and nostalgia to keep you busy.
The film starts with the rather sweet narrative of Walter (above, left) and his human brother, Gary (Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the movie), growing up obsessed with the Muppets. In a world surrounded by people, Walter can identify with these these familiar looking companions he watches on TV and looks up to them as idols. Gary plans a holiday to Los Angeles with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to celebrate their tenth anniversary, and he invites Walter along so that he can tour the Muppet Theatre. Walter discovers the theatre has been dilapidated and abandoned for some time, causing him to try and bring the Muppets back together one more time to raise $10m and prevent the theatre from being bulldozed and drilled underneath for oil.
Like most Muppet movies, you can’t help but feel it would be better if there weren’t any people and the Muppets just did their thing on their own. It’s a bit of a distraction and really Jason Segel and Amy Adams do very, very little whilst all the constant cameos had me keeping a keen eye out to spot who’s who in a crowd rather than focusing on the characters we really care about; Kermit and his friends. Funnily enough the film is proceeded by a Toy Story short which reminded me of just how emotionally engaging those characters feel. A Muppet movie could easily provide something similar, with all it’s themes of friendship and togetherness all thrown together but the ending feels rather limp instead of anything memorable.
I did laugh and smile my way through a lot of it and it’s certainly worth seeing if you’re a Muppets fan, but otherwise I’m not sure if those not already converted will take quite the same amount of pleasure. But saying that, the songs are irresistibly silly and catchy and anyone who doesn’t look up to Kermit as the greatest amphibian in show business doesn’t have a soul. In a world full of computer animation it’s nice to see that the art of puppetry can still have a place. Whether on TV or on film, I do hope these friends continue popping up and putting smiles on our faces and remind the younger generation that comedy doesn’t have to be just bum or fart gags. And with a better script I don’t doubt Kermit could see his buddies really return to former greatness.
Silly, muppetty and a decent enough extension of Jim Henson’s legacy. No more, no less.
The Muppets is out on 10th February in the UK. Running time 103 mins. Certificate U (UK).
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Review by David Rank