I grew up with the Muppets in a sort of second hand way. The original Muppet phenomenon occurred in the seventies, about ten years before I was born actually. But the Muppets have this staying power that keeps them relevant and when I was a kid I remember actively being influenced by Jim Henson’s creations in more than a few different forms. I had a VHS copy of The Muppet Movie that I wore out pretty badly over the years and I was always watching re-runs of The Muppet Show whenever I could manage. Of course I also grew up on Sesame Street and Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock still holds a special place in my heart. Over the years the quality of Muppet films seems to have dropped pretty hard with the last decent one I remember being Muppet Treasure Island, though that was mostly due to Tim Curry hamming it up more than anything. Muppets in Space was just about terrible and I vaguely remember a Muppet Wizard of Oz that did nothing for me. So while the Muppets have been a perpetual part of pop-culture for over forty years, kids today don’t really know what its like to have a legitimately amazing Muppet film on the big screen.
Well, this Thanksgiving we have cause to celebrate because Jason Segel and Nick Stoller have written the ultimate love-letter to the Muppets and served it up to us as their triumphant comeback film. The Muppets is every bit as great as you would expect. What makes it so special however is why it works as well as it does. Everything I said in my introduction really sets the stage for why this latest installment is so amazing. The Muppets is a nostalgia trip for people like myself who grew up loving the Muppets in their many different forms. There is an introspective quality to the film in its examination of what Jim Henson’s creations meant to more than a few generations of kids. This isn’t just a good Muppet movie, it’s a good film. I will be the first to admit that while I absolutely love The Muppet Movie, it’s not really a good film, construction wise. That isn’t really the case here, as plotlines are developed and resolved fairly organically. At least as organically as they can be in a film populated by marionette puppets.
All of that aside the best part of the film is that it’s a truly fun romp. The Muppet spirit is alive with this movie in a way it hasn’t been in quite a while. The cameos, the bad puns, the self-aware humor. It’s all handled in a way that never fails to put a smile on the face of the audience. I was afraid that children who didn’t have the same attachment to the characters that I did wouldn’t enjoy the film but I was proven wrong by their excitement as they left the theater. I think this movie will allow for a whole new generation to fall in love with the Muppets and that alone is enough to make me happy.