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IN SHORT: Delightful. [Rated PG. 98 minutes]
A couple of decades ago, the Muppets were top of the A-list stars in Hollywood. They had been dancing around the edges of fame for many years-- you can find evidence of their presence in the NBC headquarters at 30 Rock in New York City (if you take the guided tour) but it was a supporting players on the PBS series Sesame Street, starting in the late 1960s, that started Kermit and Co. on their path to fame and glory. Sesame Street was followed by a syndicated half hour comedy/variety show and a whole lot of hit movies and all the merchandise that success spins off. Tongues wagged at the torrid romance between Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog . . . it was the Pig's tongue doing all the wagging but we'll leave that be. Stars flocked to the doors of the Muppet Theater. Life was good.
Fame is fleeting. Now Elmo is top dog (and he's got his own movie deal elsewhere) and all those great stars of yesteryear are, well, yesterday's news. The Muppet Theater has sagged with age and, as this new chapter in the continuing Muppt Saga begins, it is threatened with demolition. Oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) has his eye on the land beneath the theater, sensing black gold far beneath the worn theater floorboards. Enter Gary (Jason Segal), Mary (Amy Adams) and Walter -- Gary's glued at the hip brother, the "World's Biggest Muppet fan.". (No questions are raised as to how the human Gary has a muppet, Walter, for a brother. The Muppet Universe is a fine, fine place <g>)
The three have journeyed to Los Angeles to take the world reknowned "Muppets Studios Tour" but find the complex, and Theater, in an advanced state of disrepair. All three determine to raise the money needed to save the theater. That means reuniting the stars who meant so much to them, once upon a time.
First stop, Kermit's house. It's up in the Hollywood Hills, we think. Images of Kermit and Miss Piggy are on its gates but the house itself (also) is in an advanced state of disrepair. True, frogs are not known for their fixer upper abilities but Kermit should have been able to put something away of his television riches, right? That's thinking too much. Long story short: Kermit is told that The Muppets must raise $10 millions to pay off the remaining debt on the theater, or lose the whole shebang. The clock is ticking. The obvious solution? A telethon! The big problem is that the classic Muppets team is long dispersed.
The years have not been good. Kermit's a recluse (that he's also a shill for pistachio nuts is not in this movie). Miss Piggy is not such a big fan of frog's legs anymore. She's based in Paris, editing the pages of a Vogue Magazine dedicated to "plus sized" readers. Gonzo sells plumbing supplies. It not be show biz but he is still "The Great" one when it comes to toilets and pipes and fixtures. Fozzie Bear is in Reno with tribute act called "The Moppets." Animal is in a clinic, getting anger management treatment. All yearn for a return to the Good Old Days but even with the gang reunited, is there a television network that will broadcast a Save The Muppets Telethon. Of course not. One exec (Rashida Jones) is disdainful of the group but, when a two hour slot just happens to appear on her schedule at the last moment . . .
We give up. If you know the Muppets. If you love the Muppets, you know that reality has nothing to do with life as a Muppet, even though most everything in their world is follows relatively logical lines. Once you make the commitment to watch the movie, all the good times and memories set the stage for the next generation. We'll come back to that.
The Muppet Telethon, very much like the old Muppet Show, is packed with some very bad music, some terrible jokes and a surprise guest star or two. Some very funny material is all generated by the interactions of the felt clad stars. All the muppet personalities make those of us in the parental years nostalgic for what was cool back in the 1980s. You may not notice, but ex-sound guy Cranky has ears for this stuff, there are new voices replicating the ones created by the late Jim Henson and the now retired Frank Oz. They are, for the most part pretty much close enough for rock 'n' roll with the exception of Fozzie Bear. It's a good try but the performance is inconsistent. Bummer.
Not Bummer: by the time all is said and done, we were grinning ear to ear.
When it comes to family oriented films, we only give the traditional thumbs up or down. The Muppets gets an enthusiastic thumbs up, for both kidlet and parentally aging eyeballs.
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