When Disney announced that a new Muppet movie would hit theaters in 2011, I have to admit to a hefty dose of skepticism. It had been more than a decade since the Muppets last landed on the big screen, and hasn’t the world moved on since then? Would singing animals made of fabric have any place in today’s progressively cynical world? Would people even get the jokes anymore? As it turns out, answering those questions would become the whole point of one of the most enjoyable movies of the past year. The Muppets released on Blu-ray last week, and you absolutely need to watch it, especially if you’re in the skeptical non-believer camp.
We see in the film’s opening montage that a young fellow named Walter is anything but a non-believer. He and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) grew up loving the Muppets, but Walter was especially drawn to the crew and their zany antics. That might be because Walter quite inexplicably is a Muppet himself, while Gary is decidedly human. The genetic disparity never is addressed, but I personally suspect the Muppet gene is something like Marvel’s mutant gene, producing superbeings (or Muppets) from random children. Or something. Just go with it. Gary and his longtime girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) are about to leave for a vacation to Los Angeles, and as a lifelong Muppets fan Walter is thrilled to be included in the trip. His hopes for meeting the Muppets and seeing the theater where it all happened are dashed, however, when the trio arrives to a rundown and condemned mess of a tourist attraction.
Just as the world has moved on since the Muppets’ last appearance, so too have the Muppets themselves. The gang has been broken up for many years, and all the members have gone their separate ways. The Muppet theater is rundown and a shell of its former self. Hope lingers, however, as wealthy tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) has signed a deal to purchase the theater for the purpose of renovating it into a Muppets museum. Walter accidentally overhears Richman’s true plan, though, which is to bulldoze the theater to drill for the oil that waits beneath it. Anguished and determined to stop Richman’s plan, Walter convinces Gary and Mary to join him in finding and rallying Kermit the Frog to put the band back together in order to save the theater.
Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzy, Miss Piggy, and all the Muppets make appearances in one way or another, and the remainder of the movie follows the newly rejoined crew as they try to earn enough money to halt Richman’s nefarious scheme. It would have been very easy for The Muppets to have been a trite and saccharine film that leaned on vapid 3D animation and modern sensibilities, but it turned out to be so much better than anyone could have expected. All the characters are presented through the old and familiar practical puppetry effects, the script is heartfelt and true, and everything comes together in what really feels like the best Muppet movie yet. It’s clear that Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the movie and got the ball rolling for the Muppets’ rebirth) truly loves the characters and the franchise, and he does justice to the beloved series.
The music of The Muppets is a combination of original songs (including the Oscar-winning “Man or Muppet”) and fun covers (such as the chickens’ turn at a Cee Lo Green number that I now like to think of as “Cluck You”). The jokes and gags work, the spirit is one of pure joy, and there’s no better way to describe the movie than that it just plain works. Whether you’re young or old, a longtime Muppets fan or a newcomer, it’s hard to resist the charm and emotion of The Muppets.
The Blu-ray released as a 3-disc Wocka Wocka value pack that includes the movie on both Blu-ray and DVD, as well as a third disc with a digital copy of the film. There’s also a digital copy of the soundtrack included, along with a number of bonus features on the Blu-ray and DVD:
- Audio commentary from Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller (co-writer and producer), and James Bobin (director)
- Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets – a faux-behind the scenes documentary featuring the human and Muppet stars of the movie
- Deleted Scenes
- A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read-Through – A brief segment featuring the Muppets before a script read-through
- Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song – Chris Cooper has a song in the movie, and this is the full version of that segment. Saying more would be a crime.
- Theatrical Spoof Trailers – A collection of parody trailers riffing on the likes of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History**) **We Think – 9 minutes of bloopers and flubs
- Disney Intermission – Whenever you pause the movie, an intermission feature kicks in that will entertain you with randomly selected bits and features.
From the opening montage to the constant and hilarious stream of celebrity cameos to the music to the return of the beloved characters, The Muppets is a surprisingly and exceptionally good movie. Jason Segel and company have managed to reignite a seemingly dead franchise, and there’s no doubt that this is the launching point for a new age of Muppets adventures. Only coldhearted oil tycoons won’t love this film.