With near blanket same day releases for most of the bigger films it's an oddity that The Muppets UK première sits close to three months behind that of their North American cousins.
But with the gap comes great extended hype and publicity, allowing Kermit and friends to grace every British media outlet from the obvious (Film 2012) to the bizzare (Sunday Times Style), plus the obligatory pre-show Orange advert. So has the lenghty wait and build-up been worth it? Absolutely, 100%, unequivocally yes. The Muppets return is a wonderfully joyous experience for those aged anywhere between say, 0 and 126. So strike up the music, commence illumination and throw your hands in the air in a flailing manner...The Muppets are here!
Gary and Mary leave their idealistic home in Small Town, America and take a trip to Los Angeles to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. Hitching along for the ride is Walter, Gary's Muppet obsessed brother (who also happens to be a muppet himself, don't ask, you won't get an answer). When visiting the now dilapidated Muppet Studios the trio learn of dastardly oil tycoon Tex Richman's plan to destroy the studio and ruin The Muppets once and for all. Can Walter, Gary and Mary persuade Kermit and company to get the band back together to fight the evil Richman? And more importantly, can they shoehorn several toe-tapping musical numbers into the plot?
Purchased by Disney back in 2004 - which also means you get treated to a delightful Toy Story short before the feature - The Muppets (2011) is a reboot by any other name and one carefully constructed to draw in new fans as well as give the faithful everything they could possibly want in the nostalgia stakes.
From the Capra-esque depiction of Walter, Gary and Mary's home-town to the exuberant musical numbers devoid of scepticism and cynicism, The Muppets turns and looks lovingly at a time gone by. A film so smitten by entertainment from 'a far, distant time' it'd make a great triple bill with this year's Oscar hopefuls The Artist and Hugo.
But that's not to say the film is one big wistful, modern-life-is-rubbish yearnfest. Far from it. Throwing in cameos from the world of Film (Emily Blunt, Alan Alda), TV (Kristan Schaal, Jim Parsons) and Music (Dave Grohl, Feist, Andrew Bird) exemplifies the Muppets inspirational range, bringing the “3rd greatest gift” to generation after generation.
Brought back to life by longtime Muppet lovers Jason Segel and Flight Of The Conchords co-creator James Bobin (and including songs by the Conchords' Bret McKenzie) you can see the affection in every note and frame. Spend a minute or two just watching Segel's joy at being surrounded by the multi-coloured playthings and even if you've never kissed a Kermit poster or spent a quiet moment alone singing “It's Not Easy Being Green” you'll recognise someone's passion brought to heart warming realisation.
Then there's the barrage of jokes, hammering you into submission. Mostly a mix of the wonderfully lame and the stupidly slapstick there's a real intelligence to the level of stupidity on display. Pressing firmly on the “Automatic Fourth Wall Destruction” button helps the gags come fast and furious, but praise is also due to the human element of Segel, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper each perfect in their roles of wide-eyed innocent and boo-hiss villainy.
Finally to the Fox Network's analysis of the film as a Communist recruitment tool, let's for once suggest Fox are right. But if being a Commie is this much fun, capitalism has a very short future.
“As long as there are Muppets, there's still hope.” Quite possibly the most out and out fun you'll have in a cinema this year. You'll find it hard to remove the songs from your head or the grin on your puss for days after. If you have feelings, they will be felt.