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The crazy gang; The Muppets (U).

IT'S nostalgia time for those of us of a certain vintage, with the return to the (this time big) screen of no less than The Muppets.

In truth the popularity of Jim Henson's creations has never really waned thanks to endless repeats of the award-winning television series The Muppet Show, which ended in 1981, and subsequent film adventures including madcap re-imaginings of A Christmas Carol, Treasure Island and The Wizard Of Oz.

Still, director James Bobin expertly taps into that vein of dewy-eyed nostalgia with a glorious throwback to the days of yore that sees the colourful puppet cast facing an uncertain future in a world of technological advances and fleeting celebrity.

The script strikes the perfect balance between affection and irreverence, knowingly tipping the wink to leaps in plot logic.

So when one character reveals the only way to save the iconic Muppet Theatre from demolition is to raise $10m in two weeks, Waldorf turns to the camera and quips, "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were reciting an important plot point!" The film opens in Smalltown, population 102, where a Muppet called Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) lives with his human brother Gary (Jason Segel), who is about to celebrate 10 years with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams).

The trio visits Los Angeles where Walter discovers scheming oil man Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to bulldoze the Muppet Theatre and drill for the black gold that lies beneath.

The only way to thwart Richman is to rally the troops.

So Walter galvanises Kermit (Steve Whitmire), Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson), Fozzie Bear (Jacobson again), Gonzo (Dave Goelz) and the gang into organising a televised appeal in the company of celebrity guests including Whoopi Goldberg and Selena Gomez.

The Muppets is a perfect family film with broad humour to appeal to all ages, interspersed with delightful ditties written by Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords including the exuberant Life's a Happy Song that features the lyric, "Life is full of glee/With someone to saw/And someone to see!" Segel and Adams embrace the ridiculousness of the premise with gusto.

Meanwhile the addition of Kermit's mechanised manservant, 80s Robot, sparks another moment of genius, when the little helper wonders, "Mr Kermit, may I suggest we save time and pick up the rest of the Muppets using a montage?" Director Bobin milks laughter and tears in generous, equal measures, leaving us hankering for more.

A delightful new Toy Story short called Small Fry, in which Buzz Lightyear is locked inside a fast food restaurant and joins a support group for discarded meal toys, plays before the main feature.

It's the icing on an already delicious cake.

RATING: 8.5 10 A welcome return


PUPPET POWER: The Muppets are back on the big screen
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2012
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