When I first heard about this movie, I was a little skeptical. Based on some recent "re-imaginings" of old childhood favorites, I could easily see The Muppets crashing and burning as it tried to appeal to the current idea of child's "humor". However, the two head-liners gave me hope. Jason Segel's comedy, as seen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man, is very cleverly written and Amy Adams' performance in Enchanted gave her a credible background for a role in a Muppet movie. Therefore, I went into this film with an uncertain anticipation. Luckily, The Muppets was a smash.
The film opens on a narration by the central puppet character, Walter. He describes his relationship with his brother, Gary (Jason Segel), and his early obsession with The Muppets. Years later, Gary is taking his girlfriend of ten years, Mary (Amy Adams), to LA for their anniversary. He gleefully tells Walter that Walter is also coming in order to visit the Muppet Studios. The two describe their happiness with the film's opening number, "Life's a Happy Song". This is probably the second best song in the film and involves a large cast of extras and multiple situational gags that set the tone of the film proper. At the end of the song, we meet Mary, who expresses her slight disappointment that Gary is bringing Walter on their anniversary trip.
The three travel to LA and arrive at The Muppet Studios, which is very rundown and only open to cheap, unsatisfactory tours led by Alan Alda. Walter breaks away from the small group to look through Kermit's Office. He is forced to hide, however, as Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) enters with Statler and Waldrof (up to their usually dry gags), Bobo Bear, and Uncle Deadly. Richman is pretending to buy out the studio to turn it into a museum while actually planning to tear it down and drill for oil. He also cannot laugh, instead repeating the phrase "Maniacal Laugh!" over and over again while Bobo and Deadly laugh. Walter rushes out of the office to tell Gary and Mary the news.
At Walter's prompting, the group sets off to find Kermit. They find his mansion, but cannot get through the locked gate. Kermit arrives to let them in, accompanied by the head lights and voices issuing from a passing church choir bus. Mary informs Kermit of Richman's plan (Walter being too much in awe to speak), and, after a sad little ditty about the times gone by ("Pictures in my Head"), Kermit agrees to get the Muppets back together to put on a telethon in order to raise 10 million dollars (the only way to buy back the theater before the contract expires). With 80s Robot at the wheel, they set off to find The Muppets.
They locate Fozzi at a casino in Reno, Gonzo at his plumbing company (The Royal Flush), and Animal at a anger management session with court appointed sponsor Jack Black. A montage ensues as the rest of the Muppets are collected. A reluctant Kermit agrees to also retrieve Miss Piggy from Paris, and the group travels "by map" to France. Piggy, however, refuses to join the group because Kermit cannot commit to her, always being busy managing The Muppets as a whole. To replace Piggy, the Muppets take-on Miss Poggy, a rather masculine female pig from The Moopets, the band at the casino where Fozzi was working.
Next, the Muppets have to find a station to air their telethon. No one accepts their idea until they visit cde. Veronica (Rashida Jones), the network manager, at first refuses, saying the Muppets are no longer popular. However, cde's most popular show, "Punch Teacher", is being sued by the Teacher's Association and she is forced to cancel it's 120 block. As a result, the Muppets are put on the schedule. The Muppets then clean The Muppet Theater to the popular rock tune "We Built This City". Gary realizes that Walter is becoming more of a Muppet and leaving him behind. Kermit tries desperately to find a celebrity host, calling old celebs like President Carter and Molly Ringwald, all of whom apparently cannot attend the telethon.
Just before rehearsals begin, Miss Piggy arrives and scares off Miss Poggy, who promises to be back. Rehearsals are rough as Animal refuses to play the drums because they cause him to lose control of his anger. Miss Piggy refuses to sing a duet with Kermit, trying to make him realize how much he personally needs her. As a last resort, Kermit decides to ask Tex Richman for the studio back.
Tex Richman turns the Muppets down with a rather hilarious rap about his enormous wealth (he is joined by showgirls that he apparently keeps in his closet). He also inform the Muppets that the contract they signed to give Richman the studio also hands over The Muppet name, which Richman intends to give to the Moopets (this is Miss Poggy's revenge). Distressed, Kermit gives up hope and leaves. Miss Piggy, however, motivates the group and they kidnap Jack Black to act as celebrity host against his will. After convincing a pessimistic Kermit to come back on board, the Muppets return to the theater to put on the telethon.
Gary is so caught up with the Muppets that he forgets about his anniversary dinner with Mary. He rushes back to the motel to discover that she has departed, leaving a note asking "Are you a man... or a Muppet?" Gary and Walter then "reflect on their reflections" with the film's funniest song. During the song, Gary is joined by a puppet Gary and Walter is joined by Jim Parsons (his apparent human form). Gary decides that he is a man and goes home to join Mary while Walter declares himself a Muppet and stays behind.
The telethon begins with an audience consisting only of Hobo Joe (Zach Galifinakis). As the telethon progresses, more and more people gather in the theater and the donation count rises steeply. The telethon is classic Muppets, with Fozzi jokes and barbershop quartets. Tex Richman sabotages the telethon by taking out the power. Gary and Mary arrive to save the day, Mary re-wiring the transformer. Kermit reconciles with Piggy and the two sing the classic "Rainbow Connection", leaving five minutes left in the telethon. Richman takes Deadly up to the roof to try to cut the power lines, but Deadly fights Richman, declaring himself a "Muppet, not a Moopet". Walter ends the telethon with a whistle aria to thunderous applause. Just as they are about the hit the ten million dollar mark, Richman takes out the telephone lines, bringing donations to a halt. Fozzi hit the money count in anger, and it is revealed that they actually only raised $99,999.99. Richman claims the theater and the Muppets leave in disgrace. Kermit lifts their spirits by saying that they can keep on making people happy, with or without the Muppet name. They exit the theater, however, to find an enormous crowd of people, all screaming for The Muppets. All join in the finale version of "Life's a Happy Song" and Richman is hit with a bowling ball thrown by Gonzo, who earlier could not release it during his "Head-Bowling" trick in the telethon. Richman sees the humor of the Muppets and gives back the studio. Gary proposes to Mary, but instead of accepting, she launches the group into "Mahna Mahna", which plays during the credits.
The greatest part about the Muppets is its quick witted humor and satire, poking fun at many movie cliches (traveling by map, for example) and making multiple references to the fact that The Muppets is a movie ("This is going to be a really short movie.", "Was that in the budget?", etc.). The second jewel to be found in the film is the excellent set of songs written by Bret McKenzie. I highly recommend the soundtrack for this film (it also includes a cover of Fuck You sung by Camilla and the chickens). The only real downside of this film is that it is rather long for a kids film and (as I have seen) can lose the interests of some of the younger viewers. The puppetry and acting are up to their usual standard, with the actors taking on stereotypical roles and adding new life to them through perfectly executed humor.