Disney's Muppets franchise reboot, the fuzzy puppets' first feature-length outing in 12 years, pokes fun at its status as a distant and perhaps unrecoverable nostalgic property often and early—even before it begins. The preceding Toy Story short finds a support group for unwanted kids' meal toys meeting in a fast food restaurant's storage room, struggling to understand why children these days prefer their bigger, more complex cousins. The dejected freebies are to Buzz Lightyear as the Muppets are to Toy Story and other Pixar series, clumsy hand-operated curiosities in a slick, digital world.
Screenwriters Jason Segel (who also stars) and Nicholas Stoller make light of their task to reinvigorate a long-irrelevant franchise for an audience that may not have grown up with the Muppets, until they actually succeed in doing just that. After Walter (voiced by Peter Linz)—a puppet whose idyllic Smalltown bedroom is plastered with Kermit memorabilia—overhears during a visit to L.A.'s dilapidated Muppet Studios that greedy Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to tear them down and tap the oil beneath, a Blues Brothers-style road trip brings the whole gang together for a televised fundraiser. If they can get a network time slot and celebrity host.
"In this market you guys are no longer relevant," TV executive Rashida Jones tells the galvanized Muppets, before her hit show Teacher Punch gets shut down. The airtime secured, Miss Piggy leads a Tarantino-esque mission to kidnap unwilling host Jack Black. But what finally wins over cynics within the film (and in the audience) is the Prairie Home Companion-esque telethon itself, which caps Walter's coded-queer journey from suburban normalcy—signified by his brother Gary's (Segel) imminent marriage to Mary (Amy Adams)—to Muppets-saving stage fame. Everyone feels like a lifelong Muppets fan by the time Camilla the Chicken and her flock cluck through Cee-Lo's "Fuck You."