When The Muppets hits theaters on Wednesday, it will mark the first time in 12 years that Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie Bear have shared the big screen. (Their last film was the much-maligned Muppets from Space.) Indeed, as Rashida Jones' TV exec character brutally informs Jim Henson's creations in the new film, "I'm going to shoot straight: You guys aren't famous anymore." Actor Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother), who co-wrote The Muppets with his Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller, hopes to change that. In the new film, Segel and Amy Adams (Enchanted, The Fighter) play unabashed Muppet fans who, upon learning that the famed Muppet Studios will be closed, set out to reunite the gang for a big comeback. Will the film also set up a real-life comeback for the Muppets?
Definitely. The Muppets is delightful: It's been a very long time since the Muppets had a hit film, says Peter Travers at Rolling Stone. So it was never going to be easy for Disney "to show a new generation what the fuss was about." And yet, the film succeeds with a "slam-dunk." Despite their R-rated backgrounds, Segel and Co. create a family-friendly delight, smartly using a Muppet reunion as the film's set-up, and delivering "enchantingly" on the idea's promise. The songs are wonderful, too. Segel's heartfelt "Man or Muppet" deserves Oscar consideration. "The Muppets slaps a smile on your face you won't want to wipe off."
And it orchestrates the comeback perfectly: The Muppets wisely respects the warm humor that underlies "why we loved these creations in the first place," says Drew McWeeny at HitFix. The premise — reuniting a band of washed-up stars — allows for astute references to "how much the world has changed in the 20 years since Jim Henson passed away." But the filmmakers' affection for the characters and their iconography is also "evident in every scene, every shot." Welcome back, Muppets.
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If only the pesky humans didn't get in the way: The Muppets is "disarmingly upfront about is raison d'être — to reboot the Muppets for a new generation of moppets," says Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter. And it certainly succeeds in that regard. But the film gets bogged down by its human characters. Segel and Adams are both woefully underserved by "the infantile characters they portray." Adams, in particular, "has never been so ill-served by a movie role." Thankfully, whenever Kermit and the gang show up — and it's often — the film's "breezy, keen-to-please attitude prevails."
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