Yesterday, I was wandering through my local supermarket and I spied what the seven year old me would have seen as the holy grail- a carton of Sunny D. You remember Sunny D, right? Sure you do. One sip of that and the days entertainment would take care of itself. So many nostalgic childhood memories came rushing back to me as I decided that, what the hell, I may as well buy a small drink and see if it tastes how I remember it.
I rushed outside and swiftly unleashed the sugary goodness onto my taste buds, but it wasn’t quite how I remembered it. With every sip I took of the beverage I could feel my adult teeth being physically eroded by the sweetness of it, my untrained brain not being able to savor the orange flavor due to sugar overload- this is not how I remember my childhood. And this elaborate comparison is to demonstrate the problems faced by the new reboot of The Muppets, co-written by and starring Jason Segel. Would it be a two hour nostalgic hug-a-thon like the previous films, or would the Muppets swerve off the road, crashing into my precious childhood memories, leaving nothing put a pit of flames and despair?
There was a lot of negative imagery in that last paragraph. Sorry about that. But then I need to use it to make up for the plethora of hyperbole and sweeter-than-sweet words i’ll be using to describe the film in the rest of this review. The Muppets is brilliant, you see. In fact it’s beyond brilliant- it is a film that treads the line between revolution and conservatism like that line actually exists. It embraces the Muppet’s past while at the same time acknowledging the fact that no-one really knows about The Muppets anymore. This is a film that, and I am aware it is something of a cliche to say, is a perfect family film. It introduces a whole new generation of kids to Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and, my personal favorite, The Swedish Chef. There are plenty of slapstick set-piece moments designed to entertain the kids, but more impressively the plot is deep, the audience grow attached to the characters and, as in all good family films, there is a powerful message about growing up throughout- something the Muppets have achieved with aplomb.
So, the plot. I say the plot is emotionally deep, but it certainly isn’t complex. The film revolves around a young kind of Muppet-human hybrid named Walter, who is obsessed with the show. When his brother, Gary (Jason Segel) goes to Los Angeles with his girlfriend (Amy Adams), Walter tags along so that he can finally achieve his dream of exploring the Muppets studio. I won’t say any more so as not to spoil the film, but it packs plenty of emotional punches, nostalgia in abundance and some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, no matter what your age.
So it’s difficult to review this as a kids film. The emotional messages that drive the plot are frankly complex enough to rival ‘proper’ films (for want of a better term) and, for this writer at least, carry plenty of resonance that we can all take something from. What I’m trying to say is, if you’re taking your kids to see this film, don’t walk into the theatre and switch off. You’ll miss some quality stuff! But enough about that. One of the hallmarks of The Muppets are their spontaneous and always-happy song-and-dance routines, this time around written by Flight Of The Conchords star Brett Mckenzie, who won an oscar for ‘Am I a man or a muppet?’ which marks Gary and Walter’s moments of realization in the film. But this writer’s personal favorite is ‘Life’s a happy song’ which you’ll be whistling for at least a week afterwards. Like the film, it’s so innocent and simple, but with enough substance to carry genuine morals and messages which are applicable to so many situations.
Of course, the film won’t be for everyone. It is a bit cutesy cutesy and that is unfortunately probably enough to put a fair few people off. But don’t let it. This is as worthy an installment to The Muppets franchise as any other, and well worth a trip to the cinema if you haven’t already seen it, and don’t just take the kids! Remember, life’s a happy song, if there’s someone by your side to sing along!