If George Lucas had been assigned the task of staging the motion-picture comeback of The Muppets, he might have done to them what he did to Yoda, his Star Wars character originally created in Jim Henson's Creature Shop convert them into digital likenesses. After all, Henson's puppets looked positively crude compared with the realistic creations that currently populate animated movies. When they were forced into retirement a decade ago, they were no longer the surefire attractions that they once were. Now, most critics are expressing satisfaction that they have returned looking just the way they always did -- only in a better movie. In the Toronto Star , Linda Barnard asks, "How can simple foam and felt beings armed only with corny quips and hearts of gold engage world-weary kids in a computer-enhanced era?" She answers her own rhetorical questions "With great ease, it would seem." Stephen Holden in The New York Times reaches the same conclusion. "The happy news is that it has been done just about right, which means conceptually and technologically Left Alone," he writes. The result an "endearing, silly, smiley-faced movie." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News gives thanks to actor Jason Segel, who reportedly was instrumental in reviving the characters who originally appeared in the '70s on TV's The Muppet Show (except for Kermit, who made his debut on Sesame Street. ) After all, she writes, "It should be universally acknowledged that a world with Muppets is a better place in which to live." Some critics note that the latest Muppets movie is not simply a restoration of a cinema heirloom. "The filmmakers are definitely playing around with the form, breaking the fourth wall and messing with movie conventions when it suits them," notes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times . And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times recalls that when the first Muppet movie was released in 1979, "there was astonishment that -- ohmigod! -- Kermit was riding a bicycle! How could a Muppet do that? Today, characters can do anything in the movies, but these Muppets are still played by Muppeteers, and they're still endearing."