Kermit the Frog, Jason Segel and Miss Piggy star in the recently released new version of "The Muppets." (Photo by Andrew Macpherson)
Starring Jason Segel & Amy Adams
Directed by James Bobin
98 min, PG-13
Can a new generation of moviegoers weaned on computer-effect razzmatazz cozy up to characters made out of old-school felt and foam?
The folks at Disney are counting on it with the return of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the other beloved pop-cultural puppet icons that last appeared on the big screen in 1999.
Kids will certainly find a lot to like, but much of the new movie “The Muppets” is clearly geared toward their parents---who were likely kids themselves in the late 1970s when the Muppets’ TV show first hit the airwaves.
Disney, which several years ago bought the rights to the late puppeteer-genius Jim Henson’s empire and had been waiting for just the right project to relaunch it, has found it. This merry musical romp jubilantly renews the signature mix of craziness, cleverness and camp that made the Muppets multimedia superstars in a previous entertainment era.
Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the screenplay) plays Gary, a Muppets fan who rallies the now-dispersed gang for a telethon to save their old theater, which will otherwise be demolished by an evil oil baron (Chris Cooper) with plans to drill, baby, drill.
Amy Adams is Gary’s perky girlfriend, Mary, and a brand-new Muppet, Walter, makes his debut alongside such familiar cast members as Fozzie Bear, Swedish Chef, Animal and curmudgeonly balcony coots Statler and Waldorf.
Fans of a certain age may get a little misty when Kermit, Miss Piggy and others join voices for a heart-tugging tune that has become entrenched as a Muppet standard, “Rainbow Connection.” But the movie also offers several delightful new numbers, including “Man or Muppet,” “Me Party,” “Life’s a Happy Song” and “The Answer Is No,” in which Chris Cooper breaks into an hilariously absurd rap.
Like the Muppets’ TV show, the new movie attracts a gallery of guest stars. Jack Black plays his gonzo self throughout, but don’t make a mid-movie popcorn run or you might miss Mickey Rooney, Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt, Zach Galifianakis, Selena Gomez, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Jim Parsons from TV’s “The Big Bang Theory,” Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl (in a role that recalls one of his previous gigs, as Nirvana’s drummer) and other familiar faces that also pop up alongside the puppets.
And by all means, stay for the credits and the irresistibly goofy “Mah Nà Mah Nà,” which has no real words but is guaranteed to produce genuine grins.
It looks like this movie was a lot of fun to make. It certainly is a lot of fun to watch. Will kids laugh? Absolutely. Will grown-ups be charmed? Indeed. “The Muppets” is a rare movie that not only the whole family can see, but one on which the whole family can agree: It’s terrific.