Coming off a banner couple of years, where even non-Pixar animations like "Tangled," "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Cloudy with Chance of Meatballs" have turned out to be terrific, it could be argued that it's something of a golden age of family films. And as someone raised on monstrosities like "Richie Rich" and "Space Jam," this writer firmly believes that kids today don't know how lucky they are. But unfortunately, 2011 looks a little grim, with Pixar and DreamWorks both promising fairly uninspired-seeming sequels, and the rest of the year looking pretty barren.
But there is one major shining light at the end of the year -- Disney's high-profile revival of the Muppets franchise. The film, that currently has the working title of, simply, "The Muppet Movie" has a script from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" team Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, and toplines Segel as a man who helps Jim Henson's legendary creations save their studio from a greedy oil baron (Chris Cooper), and also features Amy Adams and Rashida Jones among the notable live-action cast.
As is traditional for a Muppet movie, the film will also be stuffed with cameos, including Emily Blunt, Ricky Gervais, Alan Arkin, Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Zach Galifianakis, Jean-Claude Van Damme and, possibly, Lady Gaga, Ed Helms, Donald Glover, John Krasinski and Danny Trejo, as well, of course, as Kermit & co. Now, British rock magazine Kerrang (via Bleeding Cool) has broken news of a huge musician who'll cameo in the film.
The magazine reports that ex-Nirvana drummer, and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl will appear in the film, briefly replacing Muppet drummer Animal when the latter is forced to attend an anger management course. It's a nice idea, and, while we're not really fans of the Foo Fighters' particular brand of Dad-style hard rock, Grohl's always been a likable presence, and should fit nicely into the ensemble.
Perhaps more significant is the other music-related news. A few weeks back, EW premiered an alternative version of their first look at the film, seen above, which featured Segel & Stoller among the felt-lined cast, along with director James Bobin and, curiously, "Flight of the Conchords" star Bret McKenzie. Bobin broke through as a director of that HBO comedy, so it would make sense for McKenzie to crop up in some way in the film, but his presence in the picture suggests it would be as more than just a cameo.
And indeed, New Zealand site Stuff confirmed with McKenzie that the comedian, who unlike Conchords co-star Jemaine Clement, who's currently playing the villain in "Men in Black 3," hadn't yet taken a Hollywood role, is acting as music supervisor on "The Muppet Movie," and has written several songs for the film. McKenzie tells the site, "It was really unexpected. We were in the studio recording Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. It was a very surreal experience."
Segel was said to have also written a number of songs for the film, so between him and McKenzie, they've got two of the best comic songwriters in the business to date, which can only bode well for the film. Indeed, Stoller, Segel and Bobin seem to have been making all the right moves to date, preserving the anarchic comic spirit of the original "Muppet Movie," with a diverse collection of co-stars, and not being afraid to make the film a full-blown musical.
But they're not willing to throw in stars for stars' sake either -- Segel told MTV that, despite rumors of Paul Rudd (already denied by the actor) and Michael Cera voicing the new Muppet, Walter, the film will stick with tradition and have the character voiced by his puppeteer (Muppeteer?), who in this case is a man called Peter Linz. Segel also suggested that, fitting with the lo-fi aesthetic of the characters, the film isn't currently intended to be released in 3D, saying that "My goal is to make it like the 1970s, early 80s Muppet movies, so i don't want there to be any 3D, personally," although he acknowledges that the decision may not be up to them.
We don't know anyone familiar with the characters who doesn't hold a little love for the Muppets, and we're firmly excited for the new version, which seems to be being put together with real love by its creators. We'll find out if that love pays off when the movie, which is currently filming, hits theaters on November 23rd, 2011.