In the interests of full disclosure, I have to confess that I’ve been a fan of the Muppets for my whole life so I was predisposed to liking this film and have been pretty excited about it from the moment I first heard it was happening last year (an excitement fanned by the series of Muppet spoofs of other film trailers that appeared in the run up to the US release). With that said, the Muppets’ output since the end of the Muppets Tonight TV series in the 90s has not been up to standard set by The Muppet Christmas Carol (with Michael Caine) and Muppet Treasure Island (with Tim Curry) so is this new film another disappointment or one to file next to those two and the classic original three films?
Well, on paper there’s some big comedy talent behind this film – as well as starring, Jason Segel takes a writing credit and is himself a long time Muppets fan (references are scattered through Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and the director is James Bobin, co-creator of Flight of The Conchords amongst other things. Both Segel and Bobin get a number of their friends in on the act too with cameos from Jack Black, Sarah Silverman and Kristen Schaal amongst others and some Oscar-nominated music from the Rhymenoceros himself, Bret McKenzie (Flight of The Conchords).
As with all Muppet films though, the secret to success is to just make room for the Muppets to do what they do best and it seems that both Segel and Bobin grasped that the humans are never the real stars of a Muppet film and nor should they be. So much so, in fact, that even homely-girl-du-jour Amy Adams is somewhat sidelined throughout.
The story itself is nothing particularly special or new – think The Blues Brothers with more puppets and fewer car crashes – but the “getting the old gang back together to raise money to save something important from destruction” plot is a good one and there hasn’t been a good one for a while so they get away with it. Much of the action centres around a new Muppet named Walter. Perhaps it was just the contrast with my familiarity with the other Muppets but I didn’t warm to him and I’m not sure we’ll be seeing so much of him again in future outings. However, as a device to hold the musical interludes and comedy set pieces together, I can see that he’s needed here.
Overall though this (like the better Muppet films of the past) is a great family film with comedy and entertainment for the kids and the adults alike (there really are some exceptionally funny moments) and will silence the doubters who may have been questioning whether a film featuring puppets still has a place in this brave new 3D, CGI, multiplex world.