It's time to start the music. Again.
As one-half of the New Zealand folk duo Flight of the Conchords, Bret McKenzie has toured the world with his onstage partner Jemaine Clement, serenading audiences with such hilarious tunes as "Bowie", "Foux du Fafa" and "Robots." Now he's helping another crop of characters get their musical comedy groove on: those lovable, indefatigable Muppets. McKenzie served as music supervisor on their highly anticipated comeback vehicle, The Muppets, a job that required him to oversee productions of all of the movie's original songs, including two that he wrote himself. McKenzie spoke with TWoP by phone from L.A. about growing up as part of the Muppet generation, plans for a Conchords reunion and how he learned that Muppet chickens don't sing.
Like every other kid that grew up watching The Muppets in their '70s and '80s prime, I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Kermit and the gang's big-screen reboot, The Muppets. It's no secret that Jim Henson's gaggle of colorful puppets lost their way somewhat in the wake of their creator's death, as classic features like The Muppet Movie giving way to embarrassments like Muppets From Space. Certainly, the creative team behind The Muppets -- which includes screenwriter and star Jason Segel, his co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin (making his feature film debut after co-creating HBO's terrific Flight of the Conchords series) -- have been saying all the right things about their intentions with this movie, namely bringing back the same playful spirit and toe-tapping score that defined the first three Muppet features, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and, my personal favorite, The Muppets Take Manhattan. As an added bonus, it was exciting to think that my own kid's first big-screen encounter with the Muppets (he's already been introduced to the earlier films on DVD) would be a good movie in its own right and not a disappointing reminder of the characters' past glories.
It's time to play the music! It's time to light the lights! It's time to welcome back the Muppets to the big screen with the franchise reboot, The Muppets, co-written by and starring self-professed Muppet lover, Jason Segel. The How I Met Your Mother star plays Gary, a small-town guy whose best pal Walter is the world's biggest Muppet fan. After learning that the old Muppet theater is about to be demolished by an oil magnate, the duo (along with Gary's girlfriend, Mary, played by Amy Adams) hit the road to reunite Kermit and the gang by any means necessary.
Since breaking into Hollywood in the early '00s, writer/director Nicholas Stoller has written jokes for such big-name comic actors as Jim Carrey, Jack Black and Russell Brand. But those assignments paled in comparison to his most recent gig, scribbling jokes for Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and the rest of the Muppet crew for their upcoming big-screen relaunch, The Muppets. Paired with his good friend and collaborator Jason Segel (who starred in Stoller's directorial debut Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and served as both the co-writer and human lead of The Muppets) Stoller describes The Muppets as a "dream" assignment. He spoke with us on the phone from Los Angeles about the four-year process of writing the movie and why Kermit never, ever says anything mean.