The day I have been waiting for all year has finally arrived – after months and months of teasers, trailers, and other marketing devices designed to drum up interest that, for me, had started the moment I first heard about it, I have finally seen The Muppets. As I’ve explored here before on several occasions, my love for the Muppets runs deep, and may, in fact, be genetic. I’d probably go see anything involving the Muppets, but even a fan of my intensity must admit that movies haven’t really been their best medium in recent years. 1999’s Muppets from Space was an unmitigated disaster, and the movie that almost killed the franchise. A string of lackluster television movies followed, all of them equally forgettable. The new millennium has been unkind to the Muppet fan base.
Still, I held out hope that the puppets' latest outing would turn things around, like Star Trek did for its eponymous franchise in 2009, or Batman Begins did in 2005. Luckily, my hope proved to be very well-placed.
I was a little skeptical when I saw that the film was being written by Jason Segel, whose writing credits include Forgetting Sarah Marshall. What would a man primarily known for his television work and for doing full frontal nudity know about the Muppets? As it turns out, quite a lot – he’s a life-long fan with an interest in puppetry. Accordingly, while The Muppets had a bit of a more modern sensibility, it still felt true to its roots.
There was less gross-out humor than I would have expected from a man with Segel’s oeuvre, and the movie was imbued with a whimsical sense of innocence that occasionally seemed a bit too self-conscious. Aside from these moments when the movie felt like it was veering into taking an overly ironic view of itself, it was still a highly enjoyable film overall.
It felt good to be reunited with characters that are so familiar they’re almost like friends. The gang was all there, and no single character received too much screen time, except maybe the film’s new character, Walter. My only criticism on that front would be that I would have liked more time with Kermit, Piggy, Fozzy and crew, but Walter’s storyline was sweet nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed his rendition of “Man or Muppet” with Segel and a cameo by Segel’s fellow CBS star, Jim Parsons. Plus, Walter’s defining moment, which I shan’t spoil for you, comes complete with a performance by the incomparable Andrew Bird, which is always a good thing in my book.