Bizarre cameos, nostalgic characters, and jokes aimed at adults, all thrown into Kiddieland — the Muppets franchise has built its success on this format. Can The Smurfs compete in the ring, or are they riding entirely on warm, fuzzy memories of the ‘80s?
Most movies for kids are either cutesy fluff or rapid chains of sight gags and butt jokes. A nod and a wink alluding to some adult, inside joke might get thrown in to keep the grownups from getting restless. In Madagascar, for example, a lemur runs around in a panic yelling “It’s a cookbook!” referring to an old Twilight Zone episode. That one was for Mom and Dad, since few 5-year olds are well-versed in old sci-fi classics. I laughed like a maniac. My kids were unmoved.
On the other hand, there are movies intended for adults and kids to share together. The shorties are entertained, but the adults are rewarded with surprise cameos, grownup quips, and best of all, a healthy dose of nostalgia. […]