The Muppets brings charm and laughter

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(Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures)

From its opening “Toy Story” short (which is a welcome check-in with characters just as beloved as the Muppets) to its climactic musical number, “The Muppets” doesn’t have much on its mind beyond putting a big, goofy grin on the faces of audience members, and in this, it never fails.

Jason Segel put his name in the mix for a new Muppet movie after the puppet-oriented finale to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and he both writes and stars as well. Segel plays Gary, who’s planning a trip to Los Angeles with girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) and brother Walter (who just so happens to be a puppet). All Mary wants out of the trip is a marriage proposal from Gary, while Walter wants to visit the abandoned studio of the Muppets. However, once they find that the nefarious Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) wants to tear down the studio, Gary and Walter try to reunite the Muppets so to save their name and old stomping grounds.

From the opening scene, “The Muppets” commits to its bizarro world, a musical number-fueled wonderland where humans and puppets can happily coexist. The film slings jokes at the audience at a rapid clip, some of them dealing with the inherent silliness of the world they’ve created.

“The Muppets” never goes over the top (except with outrageous slapstick humor). Throughout, the film remains smartly written with plenty of laughs and a heartwarming ending that will leave every single audience member grinning like an idiot. It’s possibly the best family film of the year, and if you’re stuck going to a movie with younger family members this Thanksgiving, you’re never too old for “The Muppets.”

Printed on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 as: 'The Muppets' film brings viewers back to childhood