Muppets clean up in monster metaflick

By Matt Liparota

Sometimes you’ve got to stop being so cynical and just enjoy the ride.

As college students in this broken, postmodern world, it can be hard to really appreciate pure joy. So when something comes along – a movie, a novel, or what-have-you – that fits that bill, you’ve got to cherish it.

Enter The Muppets, a movie wholly enjoyable while lacking an ounce of sarcasm or irony – and that’s not a bad thing. I love edgy humor as much as the next guy, but it’s refreshing to see a movie run on pure optimism (and also happens to be legitimately hilarious).

Almost two decades after their last cinematic outing, the Muppets have all but disbanded. When three fans discover an evil oil baron wants to purchase the old Muppet Studio in Los Angeles and demolish it, they spring into action to get the band back together and put on a telethon to raise the money needed to save the studio (and, in the process, make the Muppets relevant again).

The Muppets is an absolute joy. The movie has a good dose of metatextuality and references the Muppets’ television and film career heavily. However, it’s never in the sense that the script is disparaging that history or trying to stand apart from it as so much metacommentary does; instead, it’s a love letter to it. In this movie, the history of Jim Henson’s creation is something to be enjoyed and revered.

Writer and star Jason Segel has done what some thought impossible: He’s brought the Muppets back from the dead in a 98-minute experience that can only be described as joygasmic. It’s packed with celebrity cameos, has a soundtrack written in part by Bret McKenzie (the bearded half of the Flight of the Conchords) and a surprisingly sharp script. Add to that the fact that this moving is absolutely brimming with heart, and you’ve got what will be the most fun you’ll have at the theater this winter. It’s obvious everyone involved has a fondness for the characters. While many have attempted to claim the Henson throne since his death in 1990, Segel is the only one who might actually be able to do so.

At this point, you probably think my admittedly extreme love for this movie is fueled largely by nostalgia. This might be the case, but as my only major exposure to Henson’s felty friends as a kid was Muppet Treasure Island, I doubt that I really fall into the target audience.

Is The Muppets a perfect movie? Well, no. One or two jokes fall flat despite the “gee whiz” attitude and not all of the song numbers work (a Muppet variation on “We Built This City” goes on just a little bit too long). The newest Muppet, an orphan named Walter, is less of a character and more of a plot device to reunite the group.

Overall, those are minor gripes. With The Muppets, Segel and company have revived a once-beloved property thought dead and buried. I only wish I could bottle the joy I experienced seeing this movie for the first time and carry it with me always.

See this movie and leave your cynicism at the door. Ladies and gentleman, it’s time to play the music.