It’s been 12 years since the Muppets’ last big-screen feature film “Muppets from Space” in 1999. Many of us were already convinced that was the last of the Muppets on a feature film and were somewhat satisfied with their new stints on funny viral videos. It also means most of our kids have never seen an original Muppets movie or show. That’s all changing now that the Muppets are back on the big screen in a Disney movie titled simply: The Muppets.
Opening this Wednesday, November 23rd and poised to be a huge Thanksgiving Weekend blockbuster, The Muppets brings back all the characters we love-Miss Piggy, Kermit (or is it la Rana René for some of us?!), Beeker, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal and the rest of the gang. We’re also introduced to a new pivotal character, Walter-the world’s biggest Muppet fan and a muppet himself-and his brother Gary, played by the charming Jason Segel.
I got a chance to screen the movie last week and also to interview Jason Segel, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog! Seriously, one of the most amazing interviewees ever. Piggy is really a diva in person, but charming in her demeanor. Kermit is a gentleman, witty and so green in his ways. Jason is just a big kid at heart and it was refreshing to see how truly excited he is to be realizing one of his childhood dreams by starring and writing a Muppets movie.
He recounted for us his first encounter ever with Kermit:
My first encounter was at a table read in New York where they surprised us and brought the puppets out for the table read. And when Kermit first spoke a line that we had written I literally cried at the table read and they had to stop the table read for a second while I pulled it together.
It was because I’m a grown man. I should be able to handle this. This is also my profession. But no, I cried like a little baby just for a second. But it happened.
Meeting him in person and seeing how truly mesmerized he was by his role in bringing back the Muppets franchise prepared me for his role on the actual movie where he always has the same look of disbelief and awe to be in presence of his childhood idols.
The movie takes us on a journey of self-discovery with Walter when he realizes his brother Gary is different than him (one is a muppet, the other is human) and he then discovers a video of the old Muppets Show and realizes he’s not the only one of his kind. His lifelong dream then becomes to visit the Muppets studios in Hollywood and he finally gets the chance when Gary invites him to tag along a trip he has planned with his girlfriend of ten years Mary, played by Amy Adams.
This kickstarts the adventure of finding out the Muppets are indeed separated and the Muppets Theater is abandoned and about to be torn down by the evil oilman Tex Richman, played by Chris Cooper. They help Kermit reunite the Muppets to stage a telethon and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater.
The movie is full with classic Muppets lines, jokes and gags and with fun song and dance numbers that really get you smiling. It’s definitely a family movie that has a bit for adults and kids, as it should be. As Jason Segel put it:
Kids are just watching a goofy guy sing a song with a bunch of puppets and it’s fun. And adults are experiencing it on a whole different level and I think there’s something neat about the whole family walking away having enjoyed something together, having a shared experience.
Brett McKenzie from Flight of the Concords wrote most of the music, which was a perfect match. Because if you think about it, Flight of the Concord’s are Muppety. Two kind of wide-eyed innocents dwelling through the hard cruel world and that’s very much what the Muppets are like.
This clip below is from one of my favorite song-and-dance moments in the movie. It’s a happy-feel-good-super-cheesy moment that really works.
The other moment happens at the end with a huge montage right in the middle of the most popular spot on Hollywood boulevard in front of Disney’s El Capitan Theater. It was a little surreal since I was screening the movie right there! I kept thinking how the heck they got a permit to close down that busy intersection for such a huge dance production? But, then again, it must be Muppets magic in full effect.
Now that the Muppets are finally back in theaters and ready to captivate a whole new generation–just like they did with my four-year-old girl who now can’t stop singing Manamana– the next logical question is, will there be another shot at a Muppets Show on TV?
Kermit and Miss Piggy basically answered that it’s up to us.
KERMIT : Well, sure, sure.
MISS PIGGY : I would love that. We should do that, Kermit.
KERMIT : I think it would be fun. I think we should, uh, I think we should look into that. I think it depends on what you all write about the movie. If you help us fill the theatre seats there’s a hope for that, you know. I think that would be fun. You know, maybe, maybe a few more films. I think if we do it, we should do it pretty much like the other one, don’t you? Red theatre. It’s good to take a poll here, you know.
So, tell us, will you be watching The Muppets in theaters this Thanksgiving Weekend?