THE MUPPETS: Like Tony Bennett and William Shatner (MISS CONGENIALITY), the late Jim Henson's characters have attained a retro-cool status that allows them to be enjoyed by all ages without need of explanation or guilt. However, their comparative and recent absence from our pop culture radar since the forgettable MUPPETS FROM SPACE (1999) is the underlying topic of this new and cleverly self-referential film.

The screenplay, written by co-star Jason Segel (FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) and Nicholas Stoller resurrects the "let's put on a show to save our cause" plot that has its roots in films from the '40s and '50s. Even the romance between Segel and his long-time girlfriend (Amy Adams) is so old-fashioned that you know they're sleeping in the separate single beds in their drab hotel room. All of this is played with the sort of tongue-in-cheek humor delivered with a knowing wink that the title characters have become known for.

The conventions of the storyline dictate that we catch up with the characters who've experienced varying degrees of successes and failures. This sequence and others leading up to the climactic production provide the movie with most of its momentum.

As they were in THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE (1995), the characters aren't sure if their ironic pre-9/11 humor fits with a more cynical, self-absorbed time. But the fact that the humans are sometimes literal background trappings for the title characters who carry the movie are a testament to their staying power.

Like the good friend who knows when not to wear out his welcome, THE MUPPETS is an enjoyable experience one can consistently look forward to.


CRITIC'S "DRIVE-BY" COMMENTARY: It amuses me when a disgraced presidential candidate like Herman Cain blames the "aggressive, frenzied media" for their downfall. Since Mr. Cain was once a radio talk show host, it occurs to me that this could be the closest he can ever get to blaming himself for his adultery and serial groping of female employees. I would also think he would have been astute enough to realize that running for the nation's highest office invites the sort of media scrutiny likely to expose one's past indiscretions. Now that he's out of the race, he doesn't have to concern himself with that anymore. But to paraphrase Ricky Ricardo, "You got some 'splainin' to do" to Mrs. Cain. To quote Rick Perry, "Oops".