By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: “You are the first audience in the world to see this film.”
With that, Savannah Film Festival Exective Director Danny Filson pulled back the curtain on Friday night’s Director’s Choice, which – to the delight of the supercharged audience in Trustees Theater – was James Bobin’s joyous, clever “The Muppets.”
Thunderous applause bookended the screening, which was an admittedly out-of-left-field choice for a festival that, so far, had screened mature fare like David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” and Lynne Ramsay’s harrowing “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
“The Muppets” was the perfect antidote, a delightful mixture of nostalgia and Charlie Kaufman-esque, pop-culture punchlines wrapped in a comfortable, getting-the-band-back-together structure. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the vaudeville gang of cornball entertainers reunite after decades of separation, hoping to stage a telethon that’ll raise enough money to prevent greedy Tex Richman (Chris Cooper, who raps) from bulldozing their beloved theater.
To borrow a line from one of the movie’s winning musicals, “I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face.”
Co-writers Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel (who stars) obviously grew up on the weekly variety program that entertained those of us now know as Generation X. And there’s a loving subplot about reclaiming family entertainment from the vapid, insensitive reality programming that passes for television these days.
But beyond that, “The Muppets” – much like their feature films of old – is infused with goofy charms and non-ironic glee. The Muppet voices are a little off, but the humor and sentiment is spot on. Rapid-fire jokes appear to grow smarter as the film progresses, and the movie-concluding variety show will transport you back to your childhood living room, where you gathered as a family to laugh and sing along with the Muppets and their weekly celebrity guest host.
“The Muppets” is wonderful. Segel, Stoller and Bobin cracked the code, recreating a Muppet movie that can in over a new generation of clever kids as it reminds their parents what they found amusing about Jim Henson’s creations in the first place. Checking out “The Muppets” means casting a vote for quality family entertainment. Supporting “The Muppets” is a necessity.
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