The Muppets certainly is a dual purpose release – it’s meant to attract a new generation of children while maintaining its appeal to their adult family members, who may have grown up with the popularly syndicated Muppet Show, a variety show that aired 120 episodes between 1976-1981. The Muppets have become a staple in children’s media alongside the popular, long-running show Sesame Street. With Disney at its core The Muppets take viewers through a tale of reminiscence that’s pleasant and somewhat overly sentimental, but there’s no denying its simplicity or good-natured tone.
Gary (Jason Segel), Mary (Amy Adams) and Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) learn of oil tycoon Tex Richman’s (Chris Cooper) plan to demolish The Muppet Theater and drill for oil. Walter, the new muppet, finds himself in California convincing Kermit (voiced by Steve Whitmire) to reassemble The Muppets and save the theater. From there, Gary, Mary, Walter and Kermit set out to find the rest of the primary cast including Fozzie Bear (voiced by Eric Jacobson), who sings with a tribute group called “The Moopets;” Animal (voiced by Eric Jacobson), who is in celebrity anger management with Jack Black; Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz), who’s become a high class plumber and owner of “Gonzo’s Royal Flush;” and Miss Piggy (voiced by Eric Jacobson), the plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris and “Kermie’s” love interest.
The Muppets is a simplistic, clever story that unfortunately dwindles a bit too much on the past in its self-referential approach to re-introduce the original characters while ushering in a new muppet (Walter). It’s commendable in that none of the characters are truly “evil,” per se and that all of the original muppets have maintained their distinct personalities (excusez-moi Miss Piggy, but you’re hogging the spotlight! No pun). Writer Jason Segel made clever decisions with regard to the muppets realizing they’ve outlived their shelf lives and that they have the ability to “travel by map” (how nice that would be) but also made bad decisions by including self-aware cameos by B-list celebrities (Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrick Harris and many others). Then there are the lead actors Jason Segel and Amy Adams, both of whom are equally as bad. Why do human actors feel they need to overact in these types of movies? Fortunately, two supporting and recognizable actors shine alongside the vocal talents. Emily Blunt as “Miss Piggy’s Receptionist” at Vogue Paris – a role very similar to “Emily” from The Devil Wears Prada and current funny-man Zack Galifianakis as “Hobo Joe.” As far as voice-over acting is concerned it’s incredible. Actor Eric Jacobson moves seamlessly between his roles as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam Eagle and Marvin Suggs – a feat similarly achieved by the other multi-character voices of Steve Whitmire (Kermit, Beaker, Statler, Rizzo, Link Hogthrob) and Dave Goelz (Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, Beauregard, Waldorf, Kermit Moopet).
As a movie, it seems a bit sloppy (doesn’t have high production values – poor lighting), but the music is fun and quite catchy and it’s a family friendly adventure, though at moments it can become a bit boring. The Muppets runs 98 minutes and is rated PG. See the fun facts below.
DID YOU KNOW? – The Muppets were created in the mid-1950s and between 1955 and 1961 they were featured in Jim Henson’s Sam and Friends, a live five-minute show that aired twice nightly in Washington D.C.
DID YOU KNOW? – The Muppets began appearing on Today on NBC regularly in 1961.
DID YOU KNOW? – Rowlf, the piano playing dog, appeared in Purina commercials in 1962.
DID YOU KNOW? – The Muppets began appearing on Sesame Street with Jim Henson in 1969.
DID YOU KNOW? – An entire cast of muppets were created for the first season of Saturday Night Live.
For a complete history of The Muppets on TV and in the movies, visit http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=muppetshow.