There is nothing to gain by trying to criticize The Muppets. It’s a fool’s errand. Trying to find fault with The Muppets is like scaling a skyscraper made of ice, like swimming up Niagara. I’m sure it’s possible, but anyone that puts in enough effort to find something wrong with The Muppets is probably a spectacularly unpleasant person to be around. It’s not a perfect movie, but the sum of its parts is more than perfect: It’s sublime, capable of bringing the kind of joy they sing about in holiday songs. It won’t kill cynicism; it will transform it into bliss. It will melt the black off of coal. It doesn’t matter how many terrible films you’ve seen in your lifetime, The Muppets is a freight train of emotion and it will make you believe in the magic of movies again.
Unlike so many others who have attempted, both successfully and not so, to bring back relics of the 70s and 80s and add their own spin, Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel understand what they have in The Muppets: They are timeless. The wry pop-culture riffs may change, and the celebrities they are surrounded by may be replaced, but the Muppets need not an edge, a darker story, a novel approach: They are perfect. They represent the the tipsy band of rubious faces, the glimmering liquid eyes of laughter, and the dimpled joy of children dancing. The Muppets are George Darley’s irregular levy, to which mocks and grimaces are immune. It is childhood joy embodied and I will not endeavor to find fault.
Here’s what you may want to know about the The Muppets: They have not performed together in many years. With the help of Jason Segel’s Gary, his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), and Gary’s muppet brother, Walter, Kermit gets the band back together to put on another show to save The Muppet Theater before an evil wealthy man (Chris Cooper) tears it down. There are songs, some happy, some touching, some new and some old; there are celebrities, some cool (Donald Glover!) and some made cool again by appearing in the movie (Jack Black); and there are Muppets. All of them. There’s also that guy from “Flight of the Conchords” who does the music. It’s fantastic. And so is Segel. And Adams. And Cooper.Everything else needs to be experienced for the first time in the theater. To spoil it is to rip off the wrapping paper of the perfect gift the week before Christmas.
The Muppets is at times poignant, and at others joyful, and if the nostalgia doesn’t overwhelm you, the earnestness will. But you will be overwhelmed, and for a few brief moments after you leave the theater, before you’re reminded of the obligations and responsibilities of life, you will bounce, fueled by glee, by jubilation, and by the rousing echoes of Mahna Mahna (doo doo do do doo).
(The Muppets opens in theaters today. It is appropriate for ages 3 - 100).