Director: James Bobin.
Cast: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, The Muppets.
MY inner child - the one who loved The Muppet Show and considers The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper among the greatest movies ever - really wants to give this film five stars.
And who am I to argue? After all, this is a great re-introduction to Jim Henson's legendary creations that is faithful to the joyous spirit, wacky smarts and all-ages appeal of The Muppets' golden years.
But the movie reviewer in me knows it's not quite perfect and some moments don't quite gel. Thankfully, the heart and the humour smooth over the bumps, making for a delightful-yet-flawed film that manages to be both nostalgic and fresh at the same time. So, sorry inner child, but it's a very respectable four stars.
Mirroring the real hiatus of The Muppets - who haven't had a cinema release since 1999's poorly received Muppets In Space - the movie centres on a "getting the band back together" plot as they rally to save their old theatre from being torn down by evil oil baron Tex Richman (played with suitable oilyness by Cooper).
Spurring them on in their quest is Gary (Segel) and his coincidentally Muppet-looking brother Walter, with Gary's girlfriend Mary (Adams) in tow as they travel the country reuniting Muppets and helping them prepare for a telethon to save the theatre.
But the Muppets have returned to a showbiz industry that has forgotten them and moved on to more cynical and low-brow forms of entertainment. Will anyone remember or care for the Muppets now?
The answer for film audiences is a resounding "yes". The movie is a free-wheeling comedy spiced with great songs (penned by Flight Of The Conchords' Bret McKenzie), inspired cameos (Jack Black, Dave Grohl, Emily Blunt, Zach Galifianakis and many more), charming temperament, uplifting message and gags for all ages.
It's these things that help recapture the vibe and magic of The Muppet Movie, and full credit goes to Segel and Nicholas Stoller for their script, which treats its puppety stars and their legacy with reverence. Best of all is the unshakeable feeling that this is a film for grown-ups masquerading as a kids movie, what with all the wonderful post-modern laughs and in-jokes for long-time fans.
There are only a few moments that don't completely work - a short rap song delivered by Cooper's villain is jarring (although it's almost saved by an off-hand response from Kermit), Tex Richman's habit of saying "maniacal laugh" instead of maniacally laughing is a misfire, and Fozzie's "fart shoes" take the Muppets' humour to a hitherto unknown low (although the shoes do get a good laugh towards the end). Also, the film's sweet naivety might prove slightly sappy for contemporary audiences, and the plot is a tad flimsy and well-worn.
None of this really matters though. The movie is wonderfully celebratory of everything that made The Muppets great - the bonds of family and friends, the joy of making people happy, the importance of following your dreams, and the awesomeness of watching Animal play the drums.
For those who grew up with The Muppets and those being introduced for the first time, this return sits perfectly alongside their earlier masterpieces The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper. Welcome back, Kermit and the gang - my inner child and inner movie critic both missed you.