Loveable “Muppets” reunite for terrific family film.
“The Muppets” (Rated PG)
The Muppets, the lovable felt creatures created by the inventive Jim Henson, have been out of the public eye for some time now, but not forgotten by legions of fans.
Along comes “The Muppets” movie to revive the careers of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, along with Fozzie Bear, Animal, Beaker, Swedish Chef, Gonzo and other favorites.
The interesting thing about this new Muppet adventure is its keen awareness of the unfortunate irrelevance of the primary characters in a world now tuned into Facebook and other forms of social media.
As far as I know, the fabulous Miss Piggy does not have a Twitter account. A throwback to simpler times, Kermit the Frog is probably blissfully unaware of the advantages of modern technology.
The old-fashioned appeal of the Jim Henson gang not only shines through in a simple story of putting together a reunion of the Muppets, it is the whole raison d’etre for a glorious revival.
Another interesting thing about this film is that it is co-written by starring actor Jason Segel, who’s known best for his comedic roles in raunchy comedies like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Knocked Up.”
For his part, Segel is entirely respectful of the Muppet world, having created for himself the role of Gary, an innocent from Smalltown, USA whose brother Walter, short and made of felt, looks oddly much like a Muppet.
Gary has been engaged forever to pretty schoolteacher Mary (Amy Adams). When they decide to go on a trip to Los Angeles, Walter tags along because he so desperately wants to see the historic Muppets Studio.
Once in the big city, the tourist trio finds to their dismay that the Muppets Studio has fallen into serious disrepair, no longer the home for the talented performers.
Worse still is the discovery that an evil oil baron, aptly named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper in hilarious villain mode) is itching to buy the studio property in order to drill for the crude below it.
But the studio will be spared the wrecking ball if the Muppets raise $10 million to stop the foreclosure and thwart the plans of the conniving oilman.
Spurred on by Walter’s enthusiasm, Gary and Mary figure they must reunite the Muppets, no easy task considering they have all gone their separate ways.
Like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” Kermit lives a lonely life in a huge mansion that is going to seed. The once jolly green frog is filled with misery, anguish and a touch of self-loathing.
Nevertheless, Gary, Mary and Walter persuade Kermit to help round up the old gang, and so a journey begins to places like a dumpy casino in Reno and the halls of fashion in Paris, France.
Some Muppets are doing well in business, others less so. Fozzie Bear is teamed up with a second-rate mock band called “The Moopets,” while Miss Piggy is a fashion diva at Vogue.
The storyline for “The Muppets” is quite simple. The trio of Muppet-lovers want to bring the disbanded group back together to stage an old-time TV show telethon to raise the millions need to save the studio.
The pure joy of this enterprise is how Kermit and his new friends go about getting the gang reunited. In typical Muppet fashion, the jokes and gags are funny and the musical numbers are endearing.
“The Muppets” smartly allows time for the characters to build their identity with an audience of targeted youngsters who may know little or nothing of their past.
In many respects, this film is geared to the adults who grew up with the Muppets thirty or so years ago. And yet, it brings along the kids for the delightful ride.
If all goes right, a whole new generation will come to appreciate the Muppets and their talent for wholesome fun. Indeed, “The Muppets,” agreeably funny and charming, looks to be the most perfect family film for this holiday season.
A former resident of Sonoma, film reviewer Tim Riley began by writing for the Index-Tribune in August 1981 with a regular column. During his Sonoma days, Riley was a legislative aide in the California State Assembly. He served as a member of the City of Sonoma’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission from 1983 to 1986, and during this time he was one of the founding members of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival. After relocating to Los Angeles with his wife Joy, a longtime Sonoma resident, and their infant child Brittany, Riley continued to write his film column for the Index-Tribune for many years. His first job in southern California was executive director of the Business Property Council. He then served 10 years as a land use planning and transportation advisor with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Riley now runs his own land use consulting business in Los Angeles. His film reviews appear in several other Northern California newspapers and online publications.