REVIEW: The Muppets – Together Again

Muppet Show lunchbox

First day of school, with my Muppet Show lunch box, 1978

I can’t remember which came first, my stuffed Kermit doll that rarely ever left my arms, or watching The Muppet Show each Sunday night, like clockwork. What I do know is that I fell instantly in love. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, kids growing up didn’t think the Muppets were real, they knew they were.

It was a simpler time of rainbows and unicorns and the Muppets let kids know it was okay to dream. Way before I knew of a magical place called Walt Disney World, I knew of the magical place called The Muppet Theatre. I wanted so badly to be able to sit in the audience, or better yet, visit backstage with Scooter.

When The Muppet Movie was released back in 1979, we were able to see where the Muppets came from and they became even more endeared to us. Famed film critic Roger Ebert had this to say about the original Muppet Movie:

They turn out, somehow, to have many of the same emotions and motivations that we do. They are vain and hopeful, selfish and generous, complicated and true. They mirror ourselves, except that they’re a little nicer.

So very true.

For fans like me, the Muppets never really went away, but I can understand how an entire generation really doesn’t have that Muppet upbringing to draw from. When Jim Henson passed away in 1990, I actually grieved. I was about to graduate high school in the coming year and it was as if my childhood was ending in more ways than one. We were lucky to soon have the Muppets living on at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but it wasn’t quite the same as having those jokes and skits each week, or full-length feature films of our favorite furry friends (aside from the themed movies putting the Muppets into classic tales). For that reason, I am so grateful to Jason Segel for making it his mission to bring the Muppets back to the big screen. {Some spoilers may be contained below, continue reading at your own risk}

 

The Muppets cast

The cast of characters, old and new

I was lucky enough to attend a media screening of The Muppets last Saturday. I am already a fan of Jason Segel’s writing and acting, so I was excited to see where The Muppets took us. I was not disappointed. The Muppets opens with the story of Walter and Gary, brothers who grew up doing everything together. While Gary (Jason Segel) continued to grow in height, Walter stayed the same. Walter bares more resemblance to say, Scooter than he does Gary, so things got a little tough for him. When Walter and Gary discovered The Muppet Show on their television, Walter found a new reason for living. He became the Muppets biggest fan.

Similar to the original three Muppet films, The Muppets focuses more on the Muppets story than the humans.  With the usual musical and dance numbers, the Muppet and human cast acknowledge that there is an audience watching. It lets us not only get in on the joke, but be a part of it. The story then focuses on Gary’s trip to Los Angeles with his girlfriend of 10 years, Mary, (Amy Adams). Gary brings his brother along for the vacation and Walter’s dreams of taking the Muppet Studios tour is about to come true. The Studios are the first stop, and Walter is shocked to see they have fallen into disrepair and are for the most part abandoned.

Walter sneaks into Kermit’s old office where he overhears the villain of the story, oil barron Tex Richman, discussing his plans to demolish the studios and drill for oil. When the loophole of the “Standard Rich and Famous Contract” is brought to light, I couldn’t help but smile at the reference to the original Muppet Movie. Walter knows they have to find Kermit and save the Studios, no small task as the price to buy it back is 10 million dollars, and no one knows where the Muppets are today. As they travel across the globe to retrieve Muppets and put on a Muppet telethon, we see pieces of Muppet history from the movies and show, mixed with slapstick humor and puns.

The rest of the film is full of heartwarming nods to the past that older fans will recognize, and plenty of laughs for a new generation. Lines like “may I suggest we save time and pick up the rest of the Muppets in a montage?” and “we can travel by map!” let you know these are the Muppets we know and love. Some fun new moments for me included the Swedish Chef and Camilla the Chicken getting subtitles, so we finally knew what they were saying. While there are a host of guest star cameos and a subplot about Gary and Mary, the real story is about the Muppets, friendship, and how growing up doesn’t have to mean growing apart.

I won’t give away all of the movie, but I will admit to tearing up when the Muppet telethon begins with the original Muppet Show opening. It was truly magical to see it unfold live before your eyes, and to know that my children will now love and appreciate the Muppets and learn from them as I did so many years ago.

Kermit sang those famous words 32 years ago; “Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection…” while Gonzo later crooned, “I’m going to go back there someday…” Well, I think we’ve done both. Welcome back, Muppets. We’re so happy you are Together Again.

 

The 7-minute short which precedes The Muppets is a hysterical piece of work from Pixar, featuring the Toy Story gang back again, including Bonnie, beneficiary to Andy’s toys. “Small Fry” takes a look at some fast food kids meal toys, and how they just want to be played with too. Jane Lynch stars as the voice of Neptuna, a discarded mermaid warrior toy and leader of the discarded toy support group. The names and types of abandoned toys got laugh after laugh in the theatre; pure genius!  Make sure you arrive on time to the theatre so you don’t miss this one!

 

The Muppets opens nationwide on November 23.





About Suzannah Otis

Boston girl living and blogging in Walt Disney World's backyard. Wife, Mom of 3, coffee addict, lover of travel and adventure.