James Bobin | 98 mins | TV | 16:9 | USA / English | U / PG
How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel (I believe he’s also in some movies from that Judd Apatow chap) co-writes, exec-produces and stars in this revival for the once-beloved puppet-y puppets.
Art mirrors life in the story: the Muppets have been all but forgotten, their old studios fallen into ruin, but when Segel’s brother (who happens to be a Muppet) overhears an evil developer planning to knock them down for good, they set about getting the old Muppets back together for a last-hurrah TV special to save their studio, and in the process restore their popularity. I say “art mirrors life”, because this is the first Muppet movie for twelve years, and it seemed to result in a wave of nostalgia and appreciation for the puppets (including a forthcoming sequel).
Segel — alongside British director James Bobin — has created a film that embraces the Muppets’ anarchic nature and old-fashioned entertainment style, while also integrating them into the modern world, to one degree or another. Things like the small-town roots of Segel, his brother and girlfriend (Amy Adams) are consciously dated, based in a movie-reality rather than the real-world, where the whole town might break into a song-and-dance number… but they know they’ve just done a song-and-dance number. Such breaks of the fourth wall abound, and constitute most of the film’s best bits.
Between a straightforward ‘get the band back together’ plot, some standard subplots about acceptance and growing up, and a host of celebrity cameos, it’s tempting to say the film must have written itself; but the skill lies in making it all seem so effortless, when I’m sure it was anything but. There’s an awful lot going on for such a simple tale, which keeps things moving and means the next delight is never more than a few moments away, be it a surprise cameo, a witty film spoof, or one of the entertaining songs (one, Man or Muppet, managed to get an Oscar. I didn’t even think it was the best.)
Some viewers and critics seem to have fallen head-over-heels for this Muppet reboot. It’s not that good. But it is an entertainingly irreverent hour-and-a-half-and-then-some, just as likely to win new fans as please old ones.