First introduced to the Muppets on Sesame Street, I’ve been a big fan ever since. However, since creator Jim Henson’s death in 1990, the franchise has seemed a bit lost. The last theatrical release in the franchise dated back to 1999 when the lackluster Muppets From Space was released. Since Disney purchased the Muppets in 2004, they’d done next to nothing with the franchise as far as film and television.
The Muppets returned to the movies in a big way, with a self-titled reboot of the franchise. For the purposes of screenwriters Jason Segel and Nicolas Stoller’s story, the Muppets have been culturally irrelevant since 1984. The felt critters were basically left to fend for themselves after the public forgot about them. While obviously a bit of a stretch, this approach allows Segel and others involved in the production to bring the franchise back to the kind of glory it hasn’t experienced since Jim Henson was at the helm.
Walter (Peter Linz) and Gary (Jason Segel) are as close as two brothers can be, despite the fact that Walter is a Muppet. Living in Small Town, U.S.A., Gary is content teacher, while Walter’s biggest source of joy is watching reruns of The Muppet Show. Gary agrees to bring Walter along on the anniversary trip he and his longtime girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) are taking to Los Angeles, casually ignoring Mary’s unhappiness with the arrangement. Walter is thrilled; he’ll finally get to visit Muppet Studios!
When the brothers excitedly arrive at Muppet Studios, they’re all shocked to find the property in shambles. Absolutely crushed, Walter is walking through Kermit the Frog’s old office when he overhears a conversation between oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) and his Muppet goons, about his plan to demolish the theater and drill for oil on the land. Gary, Mary and Walter tell the now-reclusive Kermit (Steve Whitmire) about Tex’s plan and inform him that he needs to raise $10 million in order to save the studio. Motivated, Kermit decides to bring the Muppets back together for a telethon. Mary, Gary, Walter and Kermit travel the world to persuade everyone else to join the cause, finding Fozzie Bear (Eric Jacobson) trapped in Reno, Animal (Jacobson) struggling in an anger management class, Gonzo (Dave Goelz) running a plumbing empire, and Miss Piggy (Jacobson) living the high life in Paris. While The Muppets organize the telethon, Walter deals with an identity crisis, while Gary fights to keep Mary in his life.
Admittedly, the human subplots don’t add a lot but they don’t detract much either. Director James Bobin wisely keeps much of his focus on the Muppets, who just radiate joy. If you’re an adult, these characters are just the way you remember them—childlike and innocent with a bit of a grown up edge—if you’re a child, well there’s plenty of songs, montages, and road trips to get lost in. Most of the gags are funny and on the rare occasion a joke falls flat, it’s easy to overlook because another enjoyable moment is right around the corner.
Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Disney’s 1080p transfer is reference quality material. Color saturation is wonderful, showcasing nice, bright colors with no evidence of bleeding. Flesh tones are perfect, with people looking positively human and the Muppets looking realistic. So much so, that the nap of the felt is clearly visible. Black Levels and contrast are spot on.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix utilizes every area of the soundfield. Sounds move freely from one area to another, no matter the volume level. Bass is given a fine workout, as the rear speakers are always in play. Additional audio options are French DTS-MA 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0.
English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are available.
Along with a standard DVD and Digital Copy, the following special features are included:
- Filmmakers Audio Commentary: An audio commentary with executive producer/co-writer/actor Jason Segel, executive producer/co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin. The trio discusses other movies as much as they do this one, and their endless jokes, and spotty overview of the production doesn’t offer much. The best parts are when the filmmakers reveal tricks of the puppeteers’ trade, unfortunately, there’s not much of that to be had..
- Scratching the Surface (HD, 16 minutes): This “Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets” doesn’t really cover much if any, behind-the-scenes stuff, but I loved the tongue-in-cheek interviews.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 10 minutes): Eight deleted scenes are available — “Walter’s Nightmare,” “Life’s A Happy Song Missing Verse,” “A Hero in Hollywood,” “Credit Card Club,” “Muppets in Jail,” “Bowling for Beaker,” “The Strip Mall Awards” and “The Complete Muppet Telethon Opening & More” — even though almost all of them were wisely cut.
- Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song (HD, 3 minutes): If you wondered why Chris Cooper’s rap sounded a bit incomplete, that’s because it was. Hear the full diddy here.
- The Longest Blooper Reel Ever. At Least In Muppet History… We Think (HD, 9 minutes): A blooper reel that’s actually kind of funny.
- A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read-Through (HD, 3 minutes): Kermit, Fozzie, Walter and the rest of the gang make their way to an afternoon read-through of the film’s script.
- Theatrical Spoof Trailers (HD, 9 minutes): All the funny spoof trailers are here: “Rise of the Muppets,” “Never” “Green with Envy,” “The Fuzzy Pack,” “Being Green,” “The Piggy with the Froggy Tattoo” and “Green with Envy, the Spoof Spoof Trailer.”
- Full-Length Original Soundtrack: The film’s full soundtrack album is included via a digital download code.