The Muppets (2011) (& Toy Story Toons: Small Fry)

The Muppets (2011) – I am just so happy. I had a big smile on my face pretty much from the beginning of this movie to the end. I was skeptical at first that Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, of Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame, were going to be able to tackle a wholesome property like the Muppets but they have hit it out of the park. The story centers around a Muppet named Walter (performed by Peter Linz) who has grown up in the human world. He lives with his brother Gary (Segel). Always feeling out of place in the human world, when he discovers The Muppet Show he finally finds his place in life. When Gary takes his girlfriend of ten years Mary (Amy Adams who, as other movies have pointed out, is already 50% cartoon) to Los Angeles for an anniversary trip, he invites Walter along so he can visit the Muppet Studios. That’s when Walter discovers a plot by oilman Tex Richman (Academy Award winner Chris Cooper) to bulldoze the Muppet Studio to drill for oil. Walter realizes he needs to reunite the Muppets so they can put a stop to this.

When the gang finds Kermit the Frog, they discover the Muppets haven’t spoken for several years. It wasn’t so much a falling out as a drifting apart. However motivated by the evil plot, he decides to get the gang back together and put on a show. This involves a scene of driving around and recruiting everyone. The jokes are so rapid-dire that even if half of them fall flat for you, you’ll still be laughing pretty much the whole way through. There’s a sort of zany meta quality to the movie that just gives me a feeling of joy in my heart. There are cameos galore from the stars of today (Selena Gomez) to the stars of yesterday (Mickey Rooney!!!) and a ton others that I won’t bother spoiling (the two I mentioned won’t be spoiled if you know they’re coming). Is it just that I’m being swept away by nostalgia or is the Muppets just wall-to-wall excellence? Probably somewhere in the middle, but based on other people’s reactions I’d say closer to the latter. This movie is wonderful and funny and heartwarming and just all kinds of amazing. See it. It’s good for the soul.

Speaking of quality family entertainment (which, having seen The Muppets and Hugo in the same day, I am starting to think is not as scarce as I previously perceived it to be), the film is preceded by a short film from Pixar. I think Toy Story 3 pretty much wrapped up the Toy Story series, providing a perfect ending to a perfect trilogy. However when I saw Cars 2 earlier this year I was delighted to know that the characters would not be gone forever through short Toy Story Toons. The Muppets also is preceded by such a short (back in the days when my grandparents were young, every movie used to have a cartoon short before it. I don’t think there is a single film today that wouldn’t be improved by resuming this practice). Small Fry is the story of a fast food promotional Buzz Lightyear toy that stows away in Bonnie’s bag, leaving the real Buzz stranded at the fast food joint Poultry Palace. It is short. It is funny. A highlight includes Jane Lynch as a mermaid toy who leads a support group for discarded fast food toys (and there’s a Condorman reference!). I hope many Disney movies to come will be preceded by the further antics of Woody, Buzz and the gang. I hope Dreamworks and Warner Brothers get on this too. The world needs more cartoons. Get on it, Hollywood.

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