The best word I can find to describe The Muppets? Enchanting.
Sure, I could throw around fancy definitions all day for this gem: bubbly, nostalgic, flat out, gut-busting hilarious … but I like enchanting best. Few films this year have made me laugh as hard, feel as good or just plain made me long for my childhood than this one. Enchanting. Yep, I like it.
The first Muppet project in over 10 years, The Muppets is an infectiously joyful tribute and rejuvenation of the franchise by a very unlikely candidate, Jason Segel. Written by the actor (who has appeared in such raunchy R-rated fare as Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but thankfully keeps it clean in visiting this neighbourhood) and directed by James Bobin (of the often equally randy Flight of the Conchords), the boys push all the right buttons with a realization that this film has to cater to both newcomers and a seasoned fan base, a bold assurance and a brilliant appreciation for the world Jim Henson so lovingly created.
Segel stars as Gary from Small Town, U.S.A., where he lives with his puppet brother Walter (voiced by Peter Linz). The pair, along with Gary’s sweet girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), take a trip to Los Angeles to visit the famed Muppets studios, a dream of Walter’s. Once there, they learn that a greedy business kingpin (Chris Cooper) will tear down the studios and drill for oil unless the Muppets raise $10 million to buy the deed back — not an easy task since Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy and the gang have since gone their separate ways.
But where there are muppets, there’s a way! The gang does some soul searching, a whole lot of forgiving and gets “the band back together.” And yes, that means a whole lot of song-and-dance numbers … and good ones, at that.
Funny how, in this era of jaw-dropping special effects and computer animation, we’re still captivated by these characters. It’s not because of dazzling puppetry — although it is quite good — it’s because of heart. The Muppets have miles of it. This is wholesome, relevant and ridiculously entertaining stuff; a movie you honestly hate to see come to an end.
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give The Muppets a five. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.