Not all nostalgia is created equal. The Muppets have been out of circulation on the entertainment scene for more than a generation, but in Smalltown, USA, there’s a suspiciously Muppet-like kid named Walter (voice of Peter Linz) who grows up shorter and differently-abled than his brother Gary, who’s played by writer-actor Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Walter’s identity crisis leads him to the door of Kermit the Frog (voice of Steve Whitmire, ever since the demise of Muppet-master Jim Henson), now living as a recluse in Beverly Hills.
Kermie’s obsession is to reunite the Muppets. We’re thrilled he feels that way. How could anyone not believe in the Muppets? Little kids and anyone who remembers the Eighties will be instantly charmed as the whole gang regroups to put on a telethon to rescue their derelict theater from the greedy clutches of petro-baron Tex Richman (versatile Chris Cooper), who wants the oil rights under the building. The jokes fly quick and thick, aimed mostly at grownups who recognize the essential difference between Jack Black and Zach Galifianakis — Black, the original Bearded Fat Dumb Dude, is now clean-shaven, but holdout Galifianakis remains hirsute — and why playing in a cover band in a Reno dive is a fate worse than death.
The time-sensitive gags accumulate like royalties and so do cameos: Ken “Mr. Chow” Jeong, Alan Arkin, Sarah Silverman, the ubiquitous Neil Patrick Harris, Emily Blunt, James Carville, et al. Amy Adams outdoes herself as Gary’s long-suffering girlfriend, Mary — no nun or office worker Adams has ever played has been as squeaky-clean as Mary, especially when she breaks into her “Me Party” fantasy duet with Miss Piggy (voice of Eric Jacobson). That’s right, Miss Piggy is played by a man. Get used to it. Special credit for Small Fry, the Pixar cartoon that opens the show, featuring a miniature Buzz Lightyear who escapes his fate as a fast-food giveaway only to land in a forgotten-toy support group. Never happened to Kermit.