Review: “The Muppets”

Despite its imperfections, Disney’s latest Muppet installment is a worthy addition to Jim Henson’s 50-year-old franchise.

“The Muppets” opens everywhere on November 23rd.

Raghav Mehta

âÄúThe MuppetsâÄù

DIRECTED BY: James Bobin

STARRING: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, lots of cameos

RATINGS: PG

SHOWING: Area Theaters

In this day and age, a new Muppets movie seems dicey. Since the box office fiasco that was 1999âÄôs âÄúMuppets from Space,âÄù it seemed like the once universally adored franchise had run its course. TheyâÄôd become relics of a bygone era, has-been puppets too campy and outdated for a society that was becoming enthralled with PixarâÄôs latest creations.

But may the post-modern world be damned: The Muppets sit deep within societyâÄôs cultural conscience, and following a 12-year absence, Jim HensonâÄôs wide-mouthed creations make their 21st century debut in the Disney-produced âÄúThe Muppets.âÄù

Directed by Flight of the Conchords co-creator James Bobin and co-written by Judd ApatowâÄôs disciple Jason Segel and screenwriter Nicholas Stoller (âÄúGet Him to the Greek,âÄù âÄúForgetting Sarah MarshallâÄù), âÄúThe MuppetsâÄù is a worthy reboot, balancing classic Henson tropes with Age-of-Irony zaniness.

Set in present day, the Muppet Theater has just been purchased by an explicitly maniacal Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who plans on demolishing the theater in order to drill for âÄî yeah, you guessed it âÄî oil. When diehard Muppet fan Walter (a fellow Muppet performed by Peter Linz) overhears Richman discussing his ulterior motives, he convinces his brother Gary (Segel) and Kermit the Frog to reunite the old crew to try and raise $10 million in order to save the theater.

While Segel is flanked by Hollywood young bloods like Amy Adams, who plays his neglected longtime girlfriend Mary, and Rashida Jones, the sly network executive who initially dismisses the Muppets as irrelevant, the film attempts to pull at the franchiseâÄôs roots with the crew scrambling to throw a live telethon at the last minute.

Rife with plenty of gratuitous nostalgia and hilariously absurd digressions, Segel and StollerâÄôs script captures the signature screwball humor of the Muppets while lining it with a touch of post-modern snark. The comedy also manages to run the generational gamut, bouncing between effectively cheesy to downright whacky.

Of course, even the most casual Muppet fans know no installment is complete without the musical numbers. But unlike some if its more successful predecessors, âÄúThe MuppetsâÄù delivers a few too many forgettable jingles. In a performance that ends up being wholly unremarkable, Adams flounders in her song with Ms. Piggy and thereâÄôs even a poorly timed rap verse delivered by Chris Cooper thatâÄôs, depending on the generation, likely to leave the moviegoers either uncomfortable or just bewildered.

A stellar rendition of âÄúRainbow ConnectionâÄù boasts some redeeming value and Segel steals the show in his existential ballad with Walter entitled âÄúMan or Muppet?âÄù But as a whole, the film underwhelms musically.

âÄúThe MuppetsâÄù is an installment of a different breed. In place of veterans, like voice actor Frank Oz (Piggy, Fozzie) âÄî who refused to do the film after reading the script âÄî are a crew of young faces that most likely grew up watching HensonâÄôs productions. But in spite of its flaws, âÄúThe MuppetsâÄù should provide plenty of early holiday relief for the young, old and almost everyone in between.

2 and a half stars out of 4