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  Muppets, The It's Time To Play The Music, It's Time To Light The Lights
Year: 2011
Director: James Bobin
Stars: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobsen, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz, Jack Black, Alan Arkin, Zach Galifianakis, Emily Blunt, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Mickey Rooney
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Even when he was growing up, Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) knew there was something different about him. His brother Gary (Jason Segel) would get older and taller, but Walter would stay the same size - oh, he didn't let it get him down too much, but he was all too aware he wasn't like the other boys. And then one night they rented a video of The Muppet Show, whereupon he had a revelation: he wasn't a boy after all, he was a Muppet. Now he had a show to believe in, to relate to, something made for him or so it seemed, yet then the series finished and the stars of that broadcast faded away. Whatever happened to The Muppets, anyway?

Needless to say, Segel, who co-scripted with Nicholas Stoller, was a chap much like Walter when he was a kid, as The Muppets was his favourite show, so it must have been a dream come true to be awarded the chance to revive those beloved characters from his childhood in a movie. And even more gratifying, it was the biggest production, in terms of financial success, since the first Muppet Movie back in 1979; call it timing, call it nostalgia, but there was a definite feeling that it was time to welcome those guys back into somewhere near the top of the pantheon of classic characters. The script acknowledged these were more cynical times (borne out by the accusations of liberal brainwashing this received), but the faith remained.

Faith in friendship, that was, where the age we live in has broken the old gang up and left nothing but their old theatre in Los Angeles to remember them by. Walter tags along on Gary's trip to Hollywood (although the original show was filmed in the UK), accompanied by Gary's fiancée Mary (Amy Adams) who is feeling neglected when she wanted some alone time with her man. To make matters worse, Walter gets a determined glint in his eye and decides he must bring the Muppets back together - because the old theatre is about to be demolished so a corporate monster, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), is able to drill for oil on the site. As you can see, the plot is a parody in itself.

But exaggeration for comic effect is allowed when it makes you laugh as much as this did. The intrepid trio forget about smalltown life back home (where we're treated to an old time musical number) and track down Kermit the Frog (voiced by Steve Whitmire), who as the group's leader is expected to be enthusiastic about gathering them all up in a reunion, but he needs a lot of persuasion as he sees himself as yesterday's frog. The thought that he wouldn't relent (Mary remarks it's going to be a short movie if he doesn't) is another wink to the audience who have seen so many of these storylines before, but the fillmmakers managed to work up a genuine degree of sentiment which avoids pure schmaltz by dint of the proceedings being garlanded by so many Muppet-esque gags.

Which means that humane, self-deprecating, and self-referential sense of humour that creator Jim Henson pioneered for his works was very effectively echoed here. The appearance of this being one great big nostalgia wish fulfilment system for Segel might not have been far away at all times, but if yoy loved these characters as much as he obviously did, you'd be nothing but grateful that he had revived them so accurately, it was all here: the celebrity cameos aplenty, the refashioning of popular songs, at least one character for everyone who had followed the Muppets all these years, and so forth. The companionship theme was even less simple than it might have been, recognising that people move on, find new connections, and have to leave others behind, but the fact that you had good times with your old friends would always be a valuable experience. The Muppets are lucky enough to have someone who wanted to see them back together, and we were lucky too: this was as good a Muppet film as anyone could have hoped for. Fine songs by Bret Mackenzie, score by Christophe Beck.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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