Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Only a muppet would miss this

Kermit and Co are reunited for a gloriously funny journey down memory lane, says Damon Smith

Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Alan Arkin, Rashida Jones and the voices of Peter Linz, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Director: James Bobin

For more than 35 years, Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy and their fun-loving friends have been firmly ingrained in our rose-tinted childhood memories with their slapstick routines and song and dance numbers.

The popularity of Jim Henson's creations has never waned thanks to endless repeats of the award-winning television series The Muppet Show, which ended in 1981, and subsequent film adventures including madcap re-imaginings of A Christmas Carol, Treasure Island and The Wizard Of Oz.

Director James Bobin expertly taps into that nostalgia with The Muppets, a glorious throwback to the days of yore that sees the colourful critters facing an uncertain future in a world of technological advances and fleeting celebrity.

The script, co-written by leading man Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, strikes the perfect balance between affection and irreverence, knowingly tipping the wink to leaps in plot logic.

So when one character reveals that the only way to save the iconic Muppet Theatre from demolition is to raise $10m in two weeks, Waldorf turns to the camera and quips, "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were reciting an important plot point!"

The film opens in Smalltown, population 102, where a muppet called Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) lives with his human brother Gary (Segel), who is about to celebrate 10 years with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams).

The trio visits Los Angeles where Walter discovers that scheming oil man Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to bulldoze the Muppet Theater and drill for the black gold that lies beneath.

The only way to thwart Richman is to rally the troops. So Walter galvanises Kermit (Steve Whitmire), Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson), Fozzie Bear (Jacobson again), Gonzo (Dave Goelz) and the gang into organising a televised appeal in the company of celebrity guests including Whoopi Goldberg and Selena Gomez.

The Muppets is a perfect family film with broad humour to appeal to all ages, interspersed with delightful ditties written by Bret McKenzie from Flight Of The Conchords including the exuberant Life's A Happy Song that features the lyric, "Life is full of glee/With someone to saw/And someone to see!"

Segel and Adams embrace the ridiculousness of the premise with great gusto, like when Kermit initially refuses to spearhead the telethon and she despairs, "This is going to be a really short movie!"

The addition of Kermit's mechanised manservant, 80s Robot, sparks another moment of genius, when the little helper wonders, "Mr Kermit, may I suggest we save time and pick up the rest of the Muppets using a montage?"

Director Bobin milks laughter and tears in equal measures, leaving us hankering for more.

A delightful new Toy Story short called Small Fry, in which Buzz Lightyear is locked inside a fast food restaurant and joins a support group for discarded meal toys, plays before the main feature.

It's the icing on an already delicious cake.

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