The Muppets (PG)
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Caution: potential spoilers.
This came out in late 2011, but I didn't see it until late 2015, but which time there was already another movie (which I haven't seen yet) and a new TV series (which I have seen). I ended up enjoying the movie quite a bit, because... you know, it's the Muppets. It has some good songs, lots of humor, and a surprising amount of drama. It also has some fourth wall-breaking, which is a trope I always dig. It's kind of weird, though, because characters make allusions not only to the fact that this is a movie, but also mention at least one previous movie... which, granted, came out while the original Muppet Show was still on the air, but... I dunno, I get the impression this movie is set in a world in which the Muppets hadn't been in the public consciousness since the show ended in 1981, which is just ridiculous. They've done several movies and shows and specials since then. I'm familiar with the concept of the Muppets being irrelevant to modern audiences, but it's not something I've ever thought of as being true in actual reality. But whatever, it is just a movie. Oh, btw, it was accompanied theatrically by the Pixar short film Small Fry, which I didn't see until 2023 (because it wasn't included on the DVD of this movie).
Anyway, the main character is a new Muppet named Walter, though oddly, no one ever acts like he actually is a Muppet. I guess it's not that odd, when I think that the franchise never really distinguishes between humans and Muppets. It's just, Walter has a human brother named Gary (played by Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the movie). I can't help but suspect Walter was adopted, but maybe he wasn't. An early plot point involves Gary growing up (and literally growing), while Walter stays the same size his whole life, as well as remaining a child at heart. (Which is not to say Gary isn't also something of a man-child, I guess.) But I suppose they could really be biological brothers, if we just suspend disbelief about the fact that one of them is made of felt. And... I suppose Walter could have dwarfism or something, in spite of that not being specifically mentioned, either. (Yes, as usual, I overthink everything. I can't help it.) The point is, Walter was clearly upset about not growing up as his brother was doing, until they discovered "The Muppet Show." Since then, Walter and (to a lesser extent) Gary have been obsessed with the Muppets.
Flash forward to the present, and Gary has been dating a woman named Mary (Amy Adams) for ten years. (Incidentally, throughout the movie I thought the musical numbers, particularly the first one, were rather reminiscent of the movie Enchanted, so it was kind of perfect that Adams was in this movie.) Gary and Mary plan to go to Los Angeles for the week leading up to their 10th anniversary (and Mary is hoping that Gary will finally propose). But Gary invites Walter to come along, so he can take a tour of the old Muppet studio. While on the tour, Walter overhears a sinister plot by a guy named Tex Richman, who plans to tear down the studio (which has been abandoned and in disrepair for years), so he can drill for oil on the land. He has a couple of henchmen, Bobo the Bear and Uncle Deadly (who are both Muppets, so it's unclear why they're working for him, but whatever). Apparently Kermit had signed a contract which is going to expire soon (naturally, it happens on Gary and Mary's anniversary). And the Muppets would have the chance to save the studio if they can come up with enough money before midnight on that day. (I could swear it was originally said to be $15 million they needed, but later in the movie it was $10 million. I don't know if I misheard, and I don't currently feel like putting the DVD back in to check.) Anyway, Walter tells Gary and Mary what he heard, and they go driving around, trying to find Kermit so they can tell him.
When they do find him, he doesn't believe it would be possible to raise the money, because it would mean putting on a show, and he hasn't seen any of the other Muppets in years. But of course Walter convinces him to try, so they go find all the Muppets and convince them to help put on a telethon. Of course, they have to pitch the idea to various TV networks, most of which immediately say no. But one network has a show suddenly and unexpectedly drop off the schedule, so an executive named Veronica (Rashida Jones) has a time slot to fill. She gives it to the Muppets, but they only have a couple of days to prepare. And their studio requires a lot of cleaning and repairs. Also, they have to get a celebrity guest star, or the deal's off. And Kermit's rolodex is way out of date. (As if there were any such thing as a rolodex that's in date, in the 21st century.) Still, they do eventually get a guest star, Jack Black (though I won't say how they get him to do the show). Meanwhile, there's lots of drama about Walter needing to gain confidence in himself and find his special talent (so he can truly become a Muppet, in every sense). And about Gary needing to realize he's been focusing too much on his brother, to the detriment of his relationship with Mary (so he can truly become a man). And about Kermit and Miss Piggy reexamining their relationship. (It seems they had been engaged, but Kermit left her, years ago.) And of course there's a happy ending.
Anyway... the movie has lots of cool celebrity cameos. And I've left out tons of details, but it's all really funny and silly and Muppety and nostalgic and awesome.
Directly followed by Muppets Most Wanted