Brothers Walter and Gary (Jason Segel: Bad Teacher) are extremely different. Gary is tall, Walter is short. Gary has a girlfriend, Walter is single. Gary is human, Walter is a Muppet. Just typical family stuff.
In spite of these differences, the brothers are close and spend their nights watching reruns of their favorite show, The Muppets. Since Walter doesn’t have much of a life beyond hanging out with Gary, The Muppets become his obsession.
Being a kind brother, Gary includes Walter on his big anniversary trip to Los Angeles — home of Muppet Studios — much to the chagrin of girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams: The Fighter). After 10 years of dating, Mary has yet to have a moment alone with Gary, let alone a proposal, and it’s starting to grate.
Should be a fun bus ride.
Alas, the studios, in a shocking state of disrepair, are about to be bought by evil oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper: The Tempest), who has plans to raze and drill.
Anniversary plans go on hold so Walter, Gary and Mary can track down Kermit the Frog (himself) to save the studio. Kermit agrees to track down his friends and stage the Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever, in hopes of raising the $10 million they need to buy back the studio.
This is harder than it may seem, with a road trip required to reunite the former stars. Ms Piggy is the plus-size editor of Parisian Vogue. Gonzo is a plumbing magnate. Animal is in anger management. Poor Fozzy is reduced to performing in a Muppets knock-off show, The Moopets, in grimy Reno.
Most of the former friends join happily, but Ms Piggy, still miffed that Kermit won’t commit, is the holdout. She and Mary should get together for some girl talk.
Will the telethon raise enough money? Will Kermit and Piggy ever unite? In what universe would any mayor allow oil drilling in the middle of downtown Los Angeles?
Look, it’s a kids’ movie, so don’t worry too much about the fate of the loveable menagerie.
The Muppets excels in introducing children to the basic Muppets while playing on the nostalgia of the older audience.
But there is one flaw in the otherwise charming movie: the humans.
The only human essential to the story line is Cooper, who has a marvelous time as the baddie, especially in an out-of-left-field rap sequence. Segel and Adams have a few good musical moments and bring some laughs, but their romance cuts into the screen time of the real stars, the Muppets. I wish Gonzo could have more than five lines.
I wasn’t much interested in the new Muppet, Walter, though he gets a few cute scenes. Great characters such as Sam Eagle and Sweetums are reduced to background action. Fozzie gets only a few wocka-wockas before we’re dragged back to the less interesting story of Walter the Muppet finding his place in the world.
The film is also a bit too self aware, taking too many winks at the audience. And while meta-humor is good for some superficial laughs, the Muppets are better off with their typical mix of surrealism and whacky humor.
In all, The Muppets gets far more right than wrong. Even this stone-cold reviewer felt a nostalgic pull when the crew got together to sing Rainbow Connection. I suppose the moviegoers who sang along were lovers, dreamers and me.