There’s something about the Muppets; it never ceases to amaze me how something so simple as a puppet can have such an enduring impact on entertainment. To those who grew up in the 80s they would have seen The Muppet Show on T.V regularly and those – like me – who grew up in the 90s would be more familiar with the Muppet films like A Muppet’s Treasure Island and A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. I have to admit there was a little trepidation when I heard that they’d be returning again for a new film (the idea was, I assumed, simply born because of money). When I watched the film, however, I realised very quickly that this was no mere ‘cash cow’ to be flogged in order to squeeze a few more million out of a franchise. No, this was a true labour of love; it brings back all our favourite characters into a modern setting, is full of wonderful self-referencing humour, a number of toe tapping songs and most of all, a kind of merriment which I haven’t seen in a film in a very long time. In short, it is one of the best films I’ve seen at the cinema in a long time.
The premise is quite simple, Walter (a puppet and big fan of the Muppets) wants to go and see the muppet theatre in LA and when he does he inadvertently overhears plans for its demolition. He, along with Jason Segel(who is also the co-writer) and Amy Adams, then seek out the original Muppets in order to stage one final show to raise enough money to save the theatre.
It’s not exactly a ground breaking concept but with writers Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, Yes Man) and Director James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords, The Ali G Show) bringing it all together there is hardly a joke that falls flat. Ideas like travelling “by map” and numerous references to the fact that we are watching a film (“Oh dear, this will be a short film…”) make The Muppets a true joy to watch.
Recently all comedies have desperately tried to be funny by being overly crass, rude and by using “shock tactics” to make you laugh. Here is a perfect example of a comedy in which there is no sex related humour, no swearing, no violence (other than a small amount of puppet slapstick!) but plenty of laughs and – importantly – laughs which the whole family can enjoy. My screening was made up of a lot of families but also a fair amount of adults and teens there on their own steam, there was laughter from everyone at different points. It reminds me of the success Pixar has had, there are a number of jokes which adults will enjoy and others the kids will like as well. But it doesn’t make the mistake of simply trying to shoehorn “adult” jokes into a kids film (which many contemporary animations are guilty of), they just happen to be jokes all ages can enjoy.
The film isn’t entirely without fault of course, for instance a couple of songs (a rap and a version of Forget You by Cee Lo Green) are very awkward to watch but these are definitely not the norm. The rest of the songs are brilliantly catchy and hilarious.
Basically, you’d have to be a soulless person to not enjoy The Muppets it puts a smile on your face and spring in your step. It’s wonderful.
The Muppets is out now in Wide Release