Movie review: The Muppets

The Muppets (PG)
Family/109 minutes

3/5 STARS

WHAT'S not to love about the Muppets? Created by Jim Henson, these puppet characters give life to popular children TV series like Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.

However, if you aren't old enough, you may not even have heard of them at all.

In the latest Muppets movie directed by James Bobin (The Flight Of The Conchords), Kermit the Frog notes sourly that their heyday may be behind them. (In real life, The Muppet Show ended production in the early 1980s.)

The Muppet Theatre is now a rundown museum attracting few visitors, while all the Muppets have gone their separate ways.

Travelling from Smalltown to Los Angeles to visit the theatre, a devoted fan, Walter (a new Muppet voiced by Peter Linz), stumbles upon an evil plot by an oil magnate (Chris Cooper) to demolish the theatre and drill for oil.

Together with his brother Gary (Jason Segel, who co-wrote the script with Forgetting Sarah Marshall's director, Nicholas Stoller) and Gary's fiancee Mary (Amy Adams), he tracks down Kermit, now retired and living alone in a Beverly Hills mansion.

Moved by Walter's passion, Kermit decides to track down the old gang - like Gonzo, who now runs a successful plumbing business, and Fozzie, who performs in Reno with a tribute band, the Moopets - to stage a telethon and raise the $10 million to save the theatre from destruction.

And what's a party without Miss Piggy? She is now an editor at Vogue Paris, but it's obvious there's still unresolved romance between her and Kermit.

In The Muppet Movie (1979), the first time the Muppets ventured onto the big screen, the audience was ecstatic about seeing the Muppets' feet for the first time - in particular, a memorable scene of Kermit cycling a bicycle.

In this day and age, such special effects would be hardly sufficient to impress jaded movie- goers. But the coupling of nostalgia with tuneful revelry produces an overall feel-good factor that's in keeping with the upcoming festive season.

Expect a reprisal of fan favourite, Rainbow Connection, made famous by Kermit in The Muppet Movie.

With Conchords star Bret McKenzie as music supervisor, other songs are easy to love - like Life's A Happy Song (watch out for Canadian singer-songwriter Feist), a cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, and the poignant ballad, Pictures In My Head.

Maybe this film is a way to reignite the Muppets franchise and make new fans out of young kids today.

The storyline is kept simple, as compared to the more complex plot of The Muppet Movie. But it's sometimes weird to see Segel and Adams gamely singing and dancing with the Muppets like overzealous hosts of a children's show.

I could be expecting a little too much from the new film, hoping that there was more sardonic wit, or a certain hipness accompanied by guest appearances of contemporary music acts like Sondre Lerche and OK Go, who were involved in the recent tribute album, Muppets: The Green Album.

Instead, there are cameo roles by Zach Galifianakis, Emily Blunt, Whoopi Goldberg, Ken Jeong, Neil Patrick Harris and an uncredited star that the Muppets manage to rope in as their guest for the telethon.

And yet, when The Muppet Show Theme played once again, I still felt goose bumps breaking over me.

myp@sph.com.sg


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