Let the joy be unrestrained. The Muppets are back. It turns out that deep inside Jason Segal, best known for raunchy Judd Apatow comedies and for playing the monogamous Marshall on “How I Met Your Mother,” is at his core a puppet nerd whose highest and best use is in pushing Disney (which now owns the rights to the Muppets) to let him co-write and co-star in the happiest family movie of the year. And it is accompanied by a “Toy Story” short film that is, minute for minute, the funniest movie of the year.
Segal plays Gary, a sweet small-town guy who is devoted to his brother Walter and his girlfriend of ten years, Mary (Amy Adams), a teacher. Gary and Walter are devoted fans of the old Muppet Showand they spend many happy hours watching reruns. When Gary takes Mary on their first visit to the big city of Los Angeles, they bring Walter along so that he can realize his dream of touring the Muppet studios. Mary was hoping for something a bit more romantic but good-heartedly agrees to share the trip with Walter as long as Gary promises a special anniversary dinner for just the two of them.
The Muppet studio is broken-down and covered with cobwebs. The only other people on the tour are a couple who mistakenly thought they were at Universal Studios. Walter wanders off and overhears the dastardly Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plotting to buy the studio. He will promise to preserve the Muppets legacy and then tear it down to drill for the oil underneath. To save the studio the Muppets have to raise $10 million. But they have gone their separate ways. Can they get the band back together? And if they do, does anyone still want to see them? When Gary gets caught up in helping the Muppets, will he forget the anniversary dinner?
Segal and co-screenwriter Nicholas Stoller have seamlessly continued the story of the the captivating Muppets, with their unique blend of sweetness and self-deprecating insouciance. It’s what Danny Thomas used to call “treacle cutters” that keep the Muppets fresh and appealing, expertly countering every corny joke with heart and every tender moment with humor. With joyously sunny musical numbers composed by “Flight of the Conchords” co-star Bret McKenzie and cameos by everyone from Mickey Rooney to Sara Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris, this film is utterly true to the spirit of the original television series and pure delight for both fans and newcomers.
Parents should know that this very family-friendly movie has brief potty humor, some misunderstandings, non-scary bad guy and mild peril.
Family discussion: What do you think are the three greatest gifts? How many times do the Muppets show us they know they are in a movie? What are the biggest changes since The Muppets worked together in the 1980’s? What does “are you a man or a Muppet” mean?
If you like this, try: “The Muppet Show” series, “The Muppet Movie” and “Muppet Christmas Carol”