Now this is what we call a Muppet show
After months of teasing us with hilarious parody trailers and talk show appearances, “The Muppets” is about to arrive at a theater near you, and having seen it, it is with no hesitation that I say: if you don’t enjoy this movie, then you’re dead to me, can opener.
Quite simply, “The Muppets” is not just one of the funniest movies of the year, but also one of the sweetest and weirdest and just flat out enjoyable. Or, to put it another way, it is everything you’d expect from a classic “Muppet” movie.
The premise is rather quaint but still works. After learning that their old theater is going to be torn down by a rich oil man, Kermit reunites the gang for a telethon so they can buy the place back. The result is part road picture, part song & dance spectacular, part show biz parody, and part love letter to The Muppets, with many of the best bits, naturally, happening backstage and before the show, as we see Kermit and pals deal with their own issues and the harsh reality that they’re just not cool anymore (or so they think). And it’s all deftly delivered with the Muppet’s trademark mix of sweetness, bitterness, and cleverness.
What’s odd is that, in some ways, the humor in this film mirrors that of the recent, and equally hilarious, “Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.” (That both feature cameos by Neil Patrick Harris is fittingly coincidental.) Granted, these movies aren’t that similar — Fozzy doesn’t spend the movie baked — but both movies do get so self-referential that they go meta, and both have such outrageously surreal moments that you’ll wonder if maybe you’re the one who’s high. We won’t spoil any of these bits in “The Muppets,” but suffice it to say that some of the musical numbers will have you shaking your head in disbelief as you giggle with delight.
Which is why this also recalls Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” in that it works on a multitude of levels. If you take your kids, there are times when they’ll giggle at the silliness, and others that will have you laughing out loud while your kid looks at you like you’re nuts because they don’t get why seeing Kermit in a turtleneck walking down a street in Paris is hilarious.
More importantly, “The Muppets” doesn’t embrace that modern and unfunny tendency so many comedies have these days where they simply throw in a catchphrase or modern reference and expect it to be funny. In fact, were it not for a rather odd cover of Cee Lo’s “F**k You,” and the cameos by Selena Gomez and, uh, that kid from “Modern Family,” this movie could’ve been made years ago and been none the different. And even then they just would’ve had some other song and young stars of the day instead.
But that’s part of its charm. There’s something timeless about The Muppets and so there’s something timeless about “The Muppets.” Where else can you see Feist and Mickey Rooney sharing the same stage and have it not be weird or self-aware of its weirdness? Longtime fans will get this immediately, as the movie will transport them back to when “The Muppet Show” was appointment television. More importantly, those who only know Kermit from “Sesame Street” will quickly understand why The Muppets are deserving of their own movie. And, hopefully, many more to come.
Complimenting “The Muppets” in theaters is “Toy Story: Small Fry,” a short from Pixar in which Buzz gets left behind at a fast food place and ends up in group therapy with other lost toys. It is, as you’d expect, also quite delightful, though the best bits are all the toy parodies.