DVD Review: The Muppets

Like many people, as a child I had a few films I would happily sit and watch over and over again for an entire day, which of course drove everyone around me crazy. Unlike most of these films, Muppet Treasure Island managed to keep my parents equally entertained. This year, The Muppets has captured this universal appeal once again, bringing them back for a new audience and old fans alike.

The plot follows new Muppet Walter and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) in their attempts to reform The Muppets and put on a show to save their studio from evil oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). This sort of story is standard for a Muppets film, but revisiting it after an absence of 12 years makes it feel fresh. Perhaps not original, but for a new audience it’s a great starting point and for the old fans it brings enough nostalgia to make up for its shortcomings.

At the heart of The Muppets lies simple unashamed fun. I smiled through the entire film and the jokes never let up. Even during the (almost) serious moments a sight gag would be thrown in. Although much of the comedy is pretty basic, from slapstick to simple puns, the execution is flawless, particularly from the Muppet characters.

The Muppets themselves are by far the best part of the film. All the old favourites are in there, from Kermit the Frog to Animal to the Swedish Chef – and somehow most get a fair share of screen time. Among the few new Muppets, Walter fits in perfectly too and makes a more than worthy addition to the team. His childlike glee in meeting his heroes and bringing them back together summed up exactly how I felt seeing their long awaited return.

The other actors do an acceptable job but they always take a back seat to the Muppets. Jason Segel holds his own and has to be commended for making the film possible, having produced and co-written it, but his and Amy Adams’ on screen relationship feels a bit tacked on. The real romance comes from Kermit and Miss Piggy. Their attempts to repair their lost relationship are surprisingly real and touching and their eventual reconciliation is done perfectly, with a familiar song that old fans will instantly recognise and love.

As it always has been, the film is very much a musical, something we don’t see too often any more, and the songs really are a strong point. You can look forward to a hilarious takes on Smells like Teen Spirit and Cee Lo Green’s Forget You, but the original songs steal the show. In particular, Man or Muppet (written by Bret McKenzie) is fantastic and fully deserves its Oscar for Best Original Song.

The return of The Muppets has done an amazing job of bringing life to an old franchise and is my favourite reboot in years. It brings just enough nostalgia into the mix to satisfy those who grew up with The Muppets but not alienate the new audience. Don’t let its childlike appearance put you off either – there’s plenty of substance to the film (although admittedly silly substance). No film has made me smile as much this year and I thoroughly recommend it to everyone.

Patrick Doolittle

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