I caught a sneak peak last night, and it delivered on my (admittedly lofty) expectations. Co-writer/star Jason Segel and director James Bobin have created a movie that should stand up among the many Muppet feature movies that have been made over the years, as well as one of the most enjoyable theatrical experiences of 2011.
First thing's first - this is a Muppets movie, so you know what you're getting: a plot that revolves around someone (Chris Cooper this time, as the hilariously named oil mogul Tex Richman) threatening to take away the Muppet Theater in Los Angeles. The plot isn't the main attraction here, as the movie points out on more than one occasion, it's the familiarity that we're supposed to love.
If you don't want any specific spoilers, don't read the following: Segel, girlfriend Amy Adams and Segel's brother (a new Muppet named Walter) venture out from Smalltown, USA (ha!) to the bright lights of Los Angeles, in part so Segel's Gary and Adams's Mary can enjoy a romantic vacation for their anniversary, and also so Walter can visit the Muppet Studios.
The Muppet Studios turn out to be in shambles, somehow, as if abandoned decades earlier. As for the Muppets, they're spread out across the world doing their own thing now- Kermit lives in an empty mansion in Bel-Air, Miss Piggy is off in Paris as some kind of boss at Vogue Magazine, and the rest of the gang are holed up in various situations - Gonzo owns a big plumbing company, Fozzie Bear lives in a run-down Reno casino doing a tired stage show, and so on.
Of course, despite incredible odds, Gary, Mary and Walter convince Kermit to rally up the gang for a telethon to raise money to beat out Richman's impending ownership, and most of the movie revolves around how they're going to put on the show, since it's been so long since they've had one.
Obviously it all works out, but again, that's not the point. Instead, the warmth that Segel, co-writer Nicholas Stoller and Bobin (who created Flight of the Conchords) inject into the film help it be endlessly entertaining. There are a lot of silly moments and smart self-referential parts, as characters explicitly talk about how this is a movie and what-not. The film's original music, which was largely written by Bret McKenzie, one-half of Flight of the Conchords, is just great, and hopefully garners him some Oscar consideration. Party of One and Man or Muppet were the highlights of McKenzie's music, as was another song that I won't ruin for you by talking about ahead of time.
Speaking of spoiler alerts, the film is littered with amusing cameos. At one point they have to capture a celebrity to host the telethon (as ordered by TV executive Rashida Jones), and their choice is a bit easy, but it works.
There have to be at least fifty different cameos from recognizable actors/celebrities, most of which are amusing for their randomness. One in particular made me laugh the most, but I won't spoil it for you. Just pay attention to the scene in Reno.
In the end, this newest addition to the Muppets franchise is sure to be a big hit. In the movie, Kermit and the gang are repeatedly told "nobody cares about you anymore, you're not popular, kids like other stuff now", which is anything but true, but within the context of the movie it just adds to the fun.
I don't have to say much more about the movie, do I? It's the Muppets, Jason Segel, and a slew of funny famous people. Go see it. The only thing I can say that is regrettable is the movie's lack of Steve Martin, but you can't have everything all the time, can you?