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Segel gets his puppet on

The man who had his own masturbation station in the laugh out loudbromance I Love You, Man, may seem like the least likely candidate torevive a legendary children’s entertainment franchise, but that’sexactly what charming multi-hyphenate actor/writer Jason Segel did withhis latest picture, The Muppets.

The man who had his own masturbation station in the laugh out loud bromance I Love You, Man, may seem like the least likely candidate to revive a legendary children’s entertainment franchise, but that’s exactly what charming multi-hyphenate actor/writer Jason Segel did with his latest picture, The Muppets.

Segel (who also wrote and starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, as well as serving as one of the leads on the smash hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother) penned the screenplay and stars as Gary, happy go lucky brother to melancholy muppet Walter, a felt-skinned kid who is obsessed with the late, lamented variety series The Muppet Show.

When the siblings — along with Gary’s fiancée Mary (Amy Adams) venture to Hollywood to find Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie et al, they pal around with a legion of Henson heroes, run afoul of an evil oil baron and spearhead a comeback show.

It’s all rather marvelous, heartfelt fun.

“When I started this project,” said Segel in Toronto recently to promote the film, “I made it mandatory that we had to acknowledge that the Muppets aren’t as famous anymore. And I’ll be honest, there was some controversy, there was some ego involved there, but it was important. But it became the core of the film, that the Muppets have to put on a show to remind the world about them.”

Over 270 Muppets make it onto the screen, including such obscure characters as the diabolical Uncle Deadly and the massive Sweetums.

In fact the only Muppet created for the film is Walter, our entry point into the film. Originally, however, Walter was designed to be a very different character.

“In my early drafts Walter was a puppet, my ventriloquist dummy and the secret is that he’s actually alive,” admits Segel.

“But when the puppeteers got involved in the process, they said you never acknowledge that these character are puppets, ever. So instead, we made him my brother…and we never acknowledge it!”

The Muppets is ideal family fare, with enough antics and tunes to please the kids and plenty of humour to please the parents. In other words, it’s a classic Muppets outing in every sense.

“It was all about balancing levels of nostalgia … and about making sure people just have a great time at the movies,” says Segel.

Meeting Kermit

When The Muppets iconic star Kermit The Frog came to Toronto a few weeks ago for a media press conference hosted by Metro’s own Richard Crouse, this scribe brought his four-year-old son Jack out to meet him.

Sitting attentively in the front row amidst a sea of print, radio and TV elite, Jack — who had just come from a press screening of the film — listened and watched wide eyed as Kermit fielded reporters’ questions and engaged in all manner of witty banter.

When Crouse called an end to the event, Jack moved closer, offering Kermit a picture he drew and hoping to shake the Frog’s fuzzy hand. Kermit obliged, of course, carefully saddling up beside the understandably starstruck lad, posing for a photo and a hug.

It was the kind of moment a child — and a film loving parent — only dream of experiencing and if the look on Jack’s face and the excited stories he now relates daily about that moment are any indication, the over four- decades-old Muppets franchise still has massive magic.