The Muppets (2011)
Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Jack Black, Ken Jeong, Alan Arkin, Jim Parsons, Sarah Silverman, and the Muppets. Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Directed by James Bobin.
In November 2011, as I waited in a cool, dark theater in my favorite seat for The Muppets, I sent text messages to several friends: “I can’t remember when I was this excited to see a movie.” It was true, and it remains true. After the death of Jim Henson and retirement of Frank Oz, I didn’t think I would ever see another feature-length film with Kermit and his friends, and I was an enormous fan of both the syndicated Muppets television program and its related movies. As a younger admirer, I owned the original The Muppet Movie soundtrack and the Muppet Show Cast Album, and I even had the Muppet Show board game, one of the few games my sister would play without my having to bribe her.
It was too much build-up for this new picture to live up to. Jason Segel, who seems to have made a labor of love of this film, had all the right ingredients and best intentions, yet somehow I left the theater kind of deflated. New Muppet voices took more getting used to than I expected, and I never got over the feeling that I’d just seen an excellent tribute band of a movie. I knew I would have to see it again before I could give it a fair evaluation.
When its sequel, Muppets Most Wanted hit the big screen in 2015, I wasn’t in a hurry to get there, waiting instead for the DVD a few months ago. I loved that one so hard that I knew it was time to revisit its predecessor.
And it’s still a disappointment! Because the Muppets are nobody’s supporting cast. The concept of Jason Segal and his Muppet-looking brother traveling west with Amy Adams is excellent and intriguing, and it works pretty well. With silly sight gags, witty dialogue, two crush-inspiring cameos by Feist, cute songs, and a “let’s put on a show to save the theater!” plot, the return of the Muppets has everything it needs, except one: not enough of the Muppets. It’s like the studios didn’t trust Kermit and Company to carry the film; it needed a huge star like Segel to hold it together, and it’s just not true. The result is a pretty good Segel-Adams movie, but only a fair Muppets movie with far too much Kermit-Miss-Piggy stuff for my taste.
But hey. A pretty good Jason-Segel-Amy-Adams movie? I’ll take that almost any day.