The Muppet Show was an odd amalgam of humor aimed at both kids (cute puppets, mostly innocent humor) and adults (breaking the fourth wall, celebrities ranging from Steve Martin to John Cleese). The new movie The Muppets adds a metafictional element, as the earlier show becomes a show within the movie.

Walter (voicedby Peter Linz) and Gary (Jason Segel) are brothers -- even though Walter is a muppet and Gary is a human. Walter feels isolated growing up, but finds friends and companionship when watching The Muppet Show. When Gary is going to Hollywood with Mary (Amy Adams) -- his girlfriend of ten years -- Walter is thrilled to tag along, to see the Mupet Studios. (Mary is less than thrilled, as she's hoping for time alone with -- and possibly a proposal from -- Gary.)

Walter's crushed to find the Muppet Studios forgotten, filled with cobwebs and dust. Worse, Walter overhears one-dimensional villain Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plotting to tear down the studio to drill for oil when Kermit's original contract expires in two weeks -- unless someone buys the studio for $10 million.

So Walter, Gary and Mary find Kermit the Frog, who decides to get the Muppets back together and put on a telethon to raise the $10 million! But the Muppets are scattered all over the world, there's bad blood between Kermit and Miss Piggy, the television executive (Rashida Jones) keeps pushing Kermit to find a celebrity host, and Tex Richman wants to sabotage the whole endeavor. And there are also lots of celebrity cameos, musical numbers, and characters speaking directly to the audience.

The Muppets is a mixed bag of a movie. The latter half is definitely better, when the whole gang is back together doing what they do best; the musical numbers are pretty good; and there are some nice touches here and there, like Sam the Eagle working for a Fox News-type station and a barbershop quartet rendition of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." But the movie takes a long time to get to its finale, and Gary and Mary's characters are so pure and cheerful they seem less real than the Muppets. The Muppets is deliberately silly and nostalgic, but not consistently funny.

Overall grade: C+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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