There’s nothing I enjoy more than a difficult slow-moving arthouse movie, ideally Hungarian, shot in black and white and lasting seven and a half hours*. Nothing, that is, except possibly the Muppets. And although I haven’t really thought about them much in the last thirty years this was the weekend I realised that the Muppets are possibly the best thing ever, the absolute pinnacle of Western civilisation or, failing that, certainly the most uplifting and entertaining song and dance troupe you could wish to spend a couple of hours in the cinema with.
There’s a new Muppets movie out see, entitled, with blithe disregard to filmographers with a vague idea that there’s already something called The Muppets Movie out there somewhere, simply The Muppets. It’s the first outing for the felt wonders this century, and rather brilliantly instead of ignoring the obvious technological leaps and bounds that family films have made since the indifferently received Muppets From Space came out in 1999 it actually uses the perceived irrelevance of a clapped out bunch of manic-eyed puppets as its main plot engine. The story kicks off when uber Muppets fan Walter (who appears to be a muppet himself, something the film has a lot of fun with while wisely never explaining) overhears an evil oil baron’s plan to demolish the Muppets studio and sets about persuading Kermit to reunite the gang in order to raise the necessary funds to save the buildings via a telethon. We proceed via a series of funny and poignant skits showing all the old performers being rescued from the various and in some cases desperate situations they’ve ended up in to a pitch meeting in a television executive’s office to the staging of the most down-at-heel and ill-prepared charity event you could possibly imagine. The action’s punctuated by witty yet sincere musical numbers, which are always subverted just at the point they’re in danger of becoming cheesy, a sub-plot involving Walter’s human brother and his neglected fiancée and some downright hilarious jokes and one-liners that frequently acknowledge the somewhat predictable trajectory of the plot or take the rise out of lazy movie conventions. There are a quite few name actors and other famous faces popping up along the way, most notably Chris Cooper, who attacks the villain role with relish, even breaking out into a credible gangsta rap at one point, and Jack Black, playing himself as the extremely reluctant guest star of the telethon. The whole thing’s a riot, and is, unusually, a family film that’s genuinely entertaining for all ages. I laughed, I cried, and I nearly fell out of my chair when a line-up of chickens appeared to render a Cee Lo Green song in the form of squawks. You must see this.
* This is not entirely a joke. See here.