This Muppets movie, the first big screen feature film since 1999’s Muppets in Space, hit exactly the tone it should have. With the right amount of irreverentness, sarcasm and nostalgia, this movie comments on what it thinks we might have lost as a society, yet also allows for hope to creep in as well.
The story is about Gary (Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the movie), a simple and happy guy from Smalltown, USA who wants nothing more than to make his brother Walter happy. Walter has always been different from the rest of his family and a bit of a social outcast, but when he discovers the Muppets as a child he finds people just like him. (You see, Walter is a Muppet too.) So when Gary invites Walter along on his trip to LA with Mary, his long-time girlfriend (Amy Adams, perfectly casted in this sweet and charming role) so he can visit the Muppets studios and take a tour of the grounds, he’s absolutely elated.
What Walter finds when he arrives at the studios, however, is nothing like he expected. Abandoned, decrepit and all but forgotten, this once magical place of escapism and happiness now lays barren. While exploring Kermit’s office, Walter overhears a plot being hatched by the evil Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) who plans to level the studio to drill for oil. Tracking down Kermit the Frog, they decide the only way to stop Richman is to hold a Muppets variety show which will raise enough money to save the studio. The Muppets have been out of touch with one another for some time so along with Gary, Walter and Mary, Kermit sets out to regroup with his old friends and put on a show.
Peppered with tongue-in-cheek self-referentialisms and a strong awareness of its audience as both longtime and new fans, The Muppets, is adept at entertaining all groups of audiences who would enter the theater. From the one hand, Walter’s discovery of a group which is just like him and accepts him for who he is is perfect for this generation of kids who are dealing with issues of bullying and an overwhelming state of alienation. This is the younger generation who has not necessarily grown up on the Muppets but might have an idea of who they are just based on their general presence in popular culture. Walter has always been different and while he’s been able to find comfort in watching the Muppets through his TV screen, he only fully comes into his own and finds his true self once he has the opportunity to interact with them and create interpersonal connections and ultimately help them as well. This is interesting as so many of our interactions these days are done through a computer or smart phone screen and we often neglect the significance of interacting with people directly.
Secondly, the other group that this movie was made for and, not to mention, made by, are those of us who grew up on the Muppets. Spanning the 70s, 80s, and 90s, these furry creatures captured the hearts of thousands of Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers, and Millennials be it through the original show, movies, or even the Muppet Babies cartoon show. They've popped up in youtube videos, in cameos on SNL and countless other occurrences. It's no wonder that even those of us who might not have been huge fans of the originals (I know, blasphemy. Sorry.), would not only want to see this movie but would hope for it to offer us a positive connection with our childhood. Further, a lot of our pop-culture has roots in all things Muppet as now that those raised on this strong cultural force are responsible for creating the next generation of pop-culture. The fact that Segel was so passionate about bringing this project to fruition because he grew up as a fan of the show is telling of the power of the brand.
Further, as much as the movie was about Walter finding himself, it was also about Gary realizing what was truly important to him: making a life with Mary. Personally, one thing I got out of the film was that it reminded me of a time where priorities were less complicated. Where you knew what was right and wrong, in other words, childhood. Not to say we should completely regress to when we were kids, there's obviously a lot to be said about growing up, but maybe take a lesson from what was so much simpler back then and put our priorities into the right order.
The movie had me smiling from the first frame, bringing me back to when I used to watch the movies and TV shows. I loved the innocence of the narrative, the song and dance numbers and the cameos! This time of year the movies are all dark and challenging and vying for awards, so if you’re looking for some light fun, go see The Muppets. Leave all cynicism as the door, there’s no room for it in this movie. And if you can do that, you’ll enjoy enjoy yourself and the film.