Find yourself, be yourself, and believe in yourself. That is the message that director James Bobin clearly articulates throughout this charming musical spin-off of The Muppet Show. Simplistic as this theme may be, Bobin skillfully integrates hints of romance, mature humor and Hollywood satire into the main characters’ road to self-discovery, giving the film a more wide–spread appeal.
The plot is driven by main characters Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (Muppet), who play brothers distinguished primarily by their opposing carnal statuses: man vs. Muppet. Besides Walter’s obvious inhuman physical characteristics, he is basically Gary’s equal: they are both two young men frozen in the blissful ignorance of adolescence. However, as Walter begins to feel the harsh sting of his exterior dissimilarity, he begins to question his identity. As he silently struggles, he seeks comfort in the Muppets show and their unrelenting messages of optimism. The only problem is that the Muppets’ pure, wholesome campaign for laughs has gone out of style in the modern cynicism of Hollywood production. When Walter learns that an evil money-hungry businessman (Chris Cooper) is planning on buying the Muppets old theater and drilling the land for oil, he realizes that the only way to save the theater and the Muppets career is to reunite the Muppets for a last ditch effort to raise $10 million for the preservation of the building.
Bobin artfully transforms this childish plot into one that can serve any audience by utilizing the witty interplay of realism and fantasy from start to finish. There are intelligent moments where the characters step outside the realm of the film to narrate the action or emotion in a sarcastic manner that adults will undoubtedly appreciate.
The musical numbers are another element that strays from the classic cookie-cutter stereotype of Disney flicks. While still extremely charming and catchy, the performances in The Muppets are often smothered with a blatant satirical portrayal of former Disney musicals.
However, as its optimistic themes of self-discovery and self-confidence suggest, The Muppets is a Disney movie at heart. Thus, it maintains the happy-go-lucky nature that uplifts and inspires youth. In short, it puts the magic back into modern film. That being said, The Muppets is definitely worth a trip to the theater, even if it’s just to reminisce in the lost naivety of one’s childhood.
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper
Directed by: James Bobin
PG, 98 minutes
See if you liked: Shrek (2001)