“It’s time to face the music; it’s time to light the lights…” Currently roaring onto screens in a flurry of colour, explosions and chickens is the latest offering from Disney’s The Muppets, which sees the return of Jim Henson’s titular misfit collection of puppets to the big screen.
Set several years after the end of their last film, The Muppets revolves around the original group of indescribables having disbanded to each pursue solo ventures with varying degrees of success; (Miss Piggy finding a career as the editor for “Plus – sized” models in Vogue’s Paris offices, whilst Fozzie is reduced to working the club circuit in Reno). As the Muppets go their separate ways the film’s opening scenes are set, the gang having fallen into a relative level of obscurity. This alleged absence might seem a tad premature, the Muppets having never really left the screen in some form or another; but perhaps in the age of the reboot we can forgive this, especially as this provides the perfect way to reintroduce the idea of the anarchic Muppet Show, bringing the franchise firmly back to it’s roots after a series of parody movies such as A Muppet Christmas Carol and the slightly underperforming Muppets in Space.
Enter the protagonist of the film, Kermit and Co’s greatest fan, Walter (a Muppet) who on a visit to the now derelict Muppet studios discovers a dastardly plot by Chris Cooper’s Oil Baron, Tex Richman, to destroy the renowned Muppet theatre. Conveniently, Cooper’s claim to the theatre is void if the original owners can raise $10 Million. Aided by his brother, How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segal (a human) and his girlfriend, Amy Adams, the young fan seeks to reunite the group for one last show, starting with meeting the now reclusive Kermit the Frog. Although relying on a fairly basic plotline, this is arguably a surreal take on the “Let’s get the band back together” story and as demonstrated by the film’s extensive viral campaign, parodying is something the group excels at. The Muppet Show was never about being too clever, it relied much more upon individual character performances and their bizarre reactions to everyday situations. As such the film’s simplistic premise provides the perfect canvas for the group’s chaotic behaviour.
The adventure of the rag tag group is accompanied by a delightfully comedic soundtrack that manages to retain a modern satirical edge whilst tapping into the absurd humour of the Muppet franchise. This is unsurprising, the score having been provided by the Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie; his Oscar winning song “Man or Muppet” proving to be an instant classic that audiences will leave the cinema singing. Furthermore, the film is bolstered by a host of great cameos (Jim Parsons and Emily Blunt are of particular note) and with jokes directed as much towards adults as they are to children (Molly Ringwald reference anyone?), it creates a film that delivers on all levels.
My only criticism of the film would be that some of the old returning characters that we have grown up to love are sidelined by Walter and Co. Indeed, after the first few Muppets are collected the rest of the gang are picked up in a montage and some added screen time for the irrelevant humour of Pepe the King Prawn or for a misguided daring feat from resident stuntman Gonzo the Great would not have gone amiss. However, this might just be wishful thinking, Jason Segal’s screenplay cramming the hordes of Jim Henson’s creations into a measly 103 minutes would have been very difficult indeed.
Delightfully screwball, zany and downright absurd (I know these are all basically variations of the same word but this is a review of The Muppets after all) the end result of this concoction of felt animals, comedy, romance, Jack Black, flambéed vegetables, and whatever Gonzo is, creates something of cinematic brilliance. The Muppets is a film that provides the perfect tongue-in-cheek vehicle for the return of these one of a kind characters, which I challenge anyone not to enjoy. All that’s left to be said are the immortal words of Fozzie Bear: “Wocka Wocka!”