I was skeptical, I admit it. Very skeptical. When they first started advertising this, I think it was Bill Maher who indignantly pointed out “Muppets don’t have legs!” There was a poster for the movie behind him, and sure enough, they had legs. I could point out that some of the larger Muppets do have legs, but I got his point. Looked bad.
But I shouldn’t have worried. The critics loved it, and I loved it. I was never a huge fan of “The Muppet Show.” I saw it now and then, and liked it. I got to know who the characters were. They have been totally faithful to the originals in this movie. Yeah, there are a few shots here and there where you can see Kermit’s legs, and a few shots of the new character, Walter. But for the most part it’s just like the show. You see them from the waist up, and they are operated by real puppeteers out of sight. They could so easily have gone with computer animation and ended up with an atrocity, so I really appreciate the pains they went to, making it the old-fashioned way.
The best way to describe it is a sweet movie. It’s on a child-like level, but just like the show, there are sly grown-up jokes embedded in the visuals and the dialogue. Walter is the younger brother of Jason Segel, in a normal human family. Being only about two feet tall, naturally he feels different and alienated from the others in Smalltown, USA. But then he sees the Muppets on TV, and knows these are his people. The brothers and Amy Adams go to Hollywood to see the old studio, which is in ruins and threatened by Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who wants to tear it down and drill for oil. They decide they have to get the old Muppets back together and—what else?—put on a show! Fozzie Bear is fronting a terrible music group in a toilet in Reno. Miss Piggy is a fashion maven in Paris. “How are we going to drive to Paris?” “Let’s travel by map!” And we cut to an Indiana Jones map with a red line going from LA to Paris. The car comes out of the water on the Riviera. I loved it.
There is a lot of real rocking music, such as “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” and several original songs. Lots of dancing. Chris Cooper does a great rap song. One big plus for me was the LA locations, places we have known and miss a lot. They stop for the world’s best hot dogs at Pink’s on La Brea, and Amy does a solo number in Mel’s, on Highland. Then a huge dance number on “Oscar Block,” that stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between the Hollywood-Highland Center and the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel that is closed about as often as it’s open for one thing or another. And last but not least, there are no less than 20 cameo appearances, by people as varied as Whoopi Goldberg and Neil Patrick Harris, many of them playing themselves. Jack Black ends up hosting the Big Show, tied to a chair because Miss Piggy has kidnapped him. What a lot of fun.