The Muppets reunite to stage a benefit concert to save their theatre from an evil oil tycoon.
What we thought
As is perhaps typical of relaunches of classic franchises, the amount of joy that you get out of The Muppets will largely depend on your own previous attachment to these classic characters. Whether you grew up with the Muppets Show from the 1970s or are a complete newbie to Jim Henson's creations, one thing is certain: you won't leave The Muppets without at least a small spring in your step; a cheerier attitude towards the world. And if you're a young kid, you might just have found your new favourite film.
Spearheaded by puppet-aficionado Jason Segal (I'm still waiting for a Dracula: The Musical spinoff from Forgetting Sarah Marshall), who produces, stars in and co-wrote the film, The Muppets is clearly aimed at both old Muppets fans and at an entirely new generation. In terms of the latter group, the film clearly couldn't care less that it's dealing with a generation of children raised on cutting edge CG-animation and increasingly immersive video games. Its plan is clear: win the hearts and minds of today's kids just like it always did, with classic storytelling, killer gags and vibrantly colourful characters. If overseas reaction to the film is anything to go by, it did this and then some.
It is with older viewers, however, that the film undoubtedly faced its biggest challenge. Die-hard fans are always tough to please, while those of us without the life-long attachment to the franchise will need more than just nostalgia to go on. In case of the former, Segal and director James Bobin needn't have worried as I have heard countless reports of grown men being brought to tears by the sheer, classic “Muppetness” of the film and seemingly only the most curmudgeonly of old fans have anything substantially bad to say about the film.
For casual Muppets fans like me though - adults who like the Muppets but don't have the same childhood-entrenched-love for them that others clearly do - things are slightly more complicated. Speaking only for myself, I really, really, really liked the film but I didn't quite love it. It is, in no uncertain terms, a deliriously joyful and wonderfully witty family film that is in many ways the live-action counterpart to the animated wonders that studios like Aardman and Pixar routinely put out. And yet, for all of its sharp writing, memorable characters and exuberant joie de vivre, the film isn't exactly perfect.
The pacing, for a start, is just slightly off enough to niggle at one's enjoyment of the film. Similarly paradoxical is the way the film seems to feature both too much of the Muppets and too little of them. This being a Muppets film you obviously want as much of them as possible, with human performances most notably consisting of short, funny cameos from contemporary celebs (this time including some terrific appearances from the likes of Alan Arkin, Zach Galifianakis, Jack Black and, my two personal favourites, Emily Blunt and Community's Donald Glover) but the film spends so much time trying to get us to care about its major human characters (Segal, Amy Adams) and newcomer puppet - not yet Muppet – Walter (Peter Linz) that it never quite comes to terms with dividing its time between man, Muppet and puppet.
As I said though, these problems with probably seem like nothing more than minor niggles to the devoted – if that – and they absolutely shouldn't stop anyone from seeing what is undoubtedly going to go down as one of the year's most delightful films.