What's old is new again. At least that's what Disney is hoping for, as its 2004 investment gets a new lease on life and a new coat of fur in the first "Muppets" movie to be made in a dozen years.
So what's the formula for resurrecting a childlike franchise, when the children who grew up on it now have unenlightened children of their own?
You get a creative fanboy like Jason Segel to co-write a script that not only pays tribute but also directly addresses the darkening of the Muppets Studio doors during the past several years.
Segel is smart enough to set up the premise, but then knows to get out of the way and let the masters do their thing.
Gary (Segel) and his Muppets brother, Walter (voiced by Peter Linz), grew up in Smalltown, USA -- although it's never explained how a human and a Muppet could be related.
THE FILM: 'The Muppets'
OUR RATING: HHH
STARRING: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jack Black, Rashida Jones and the Muppets
BEHIND THE SCENES: Directed by James Bobin ('The Flight of the Conchords' and 'Da Ali G Show' TV series). Filmed at the Jim Henson Creature Shop in Hollywood.
PLAYING: Syracuse 6, Centerville Megaplex, Layton Hills 9, Layton Tinseltown, Megaplex 13, Newgate Tinseltown, Walker 8, North Ogden 6, Cinemark Farmington. Runs: 98 minutes.
MPAA RATING: PG
Gary and Mary (Amy Adams) are sweethearts who agree to travel to Los Angeles to celebrate the fact they've been dating for 10 years (clueless Gary still hasn't popped the question).
Mary thinks this will be the perfect opportunity to get Gary alone, but when he suggests they take Walter with them so they can visit the old Muppets Studio, she's a bit disappointed.
Walter has always loved the Muppets and would be awestruck to see where they once worked. His dream is about to come true, but not before the entire little town belts out one of the cutest show tunes ever, "Life's a Happy Song."
You are now in the mood to be Muppetized!
Sadly, on their arrival, they see a run-down, boarded-up Muppets Workshop, with an aging security guard (Alan Arkin) offering halfhearted tours. It's here that Walter overhears a plan by wealthy oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to tear down Muppets Studio and drill for oil.
The only way to stop him will be to raise $10 million, and they can't do that without Kermit and the others -- who are in retirement, knockoff cover bands, anger-management facilities and assorted business ventures.
Miss Piggy will be the toughest -- she's now running a successful fashion magazine in Paris and harbors an unexplained resentment toward Kermit.
However, if they do manage "to get the band back together," they still must put on a fundraising show to a fan base that may no longer be there.
Well, as you can imagine, it will be an adorable, uphill battle, but I must admit that when they break out the old classic "Rainbow Connection," it feels like you're giving your grandma a big hug and a kiss. (I saw a few tears here.)
The film does have some lulls and could have been a bit tighter, but overall, it's very satisfying, nostalgically joyful and the best part? A 4-year-old boy, sitting in front of me, was squealing with delight! He got it. And I'm guessing he won't be the only one -- the venerable furry ones may have life in them yet.
Welcome back, Muppets. We've missed you.
Steve Salles can be reached at email@example.com.