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Muppets Most Wanted

March 23, 2014
Muppets Most Wanted

When The Muppets came out I liked it, but there was something missing that kept me from loving it the way I’d loved The Muppet Show and the original three Muppet movies. I think it managed to nail the sense of sentiment that these fuzzy guys can evoke — one of the most amazing things about the Muppeteers is the way they can make you honestly care about a scrap of Jim Henson’s mom’s old winter coat — but it didn’t quite capture the sheer madcap zaniness the Muppets were and are capable of. Besides that, it fell a bit short in the meta-level, self-referential bits that made the show downright smart while still being silly.

Muppets Most Wanted delivers on both these counts; these are the Muppets I’ve really been missing all these years. It kicks off fast at the beginning: as they begin to strike the set at the end of The Muppets, they realize a camera is still rolling. This can only mean that the studio wants a sequel, and they immediately leap into a musical number to decide what kind of movie that should be. They settle on the idea of a world — well, European — tour, with just a little help from Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who quickly sets himself up as their new tour manager.

Meanwhile, in a Siberian gulag, trouble is brewing. Despite the efforts of the stern prison guard, Nadya (Tina Fey), a prisoner escapes. It’s none other than Constantine, the World’s Most Dangerous Frog™, and a dead ringer for Kermit, but for a mole on his lip. At the first tour stop in Berlin, Dominic convinces Kermit to go for a walk; Constantine slaps a fake mole on Kermit, sending him off to Siberia, and a little green makeup lets him take over with the troupe.

Everyone seems to be incapable of telling Kermit and Constantine apart when both have or don’t have the mole, and they’re incapable of seeing the resemblance when one has it and the other doesn’t. It’s a delightful inversion of the whole Kermit-and-Fozzie-are-twins bit from The Great Muppet Caper — returning screenwriter Nicholas Stoller and writer/director James Bobin really know their Muppet stuff — but it works fine even without remembering the reference.

It also helps Constantine’s disguise that he’s willing to give the Muppets everything they want, where Kermit insisted on some restraint. Indeed, the quality of the touring Muppet Show degrades, though they somehow keep selling out their fantastic bookings, conveniently placed close enough to famous museums and banks for Constantine to carry out an implausible sequence of robberies. And these draw the attention of a CIA agent (Sam the Eagle) who must work with — and for once play the straight man to — a ridiculous caricature of a European Interpol bureaucrat (Ty Burrell).

Meanwhile, Kermit is stuck in the gulag, where he has to organize an annual “Please Don’t Riot” talent show among a gang of prisoners filled with celebrity cameos. As Constantine’s loose hand starts to feel a little funny to the Muppet cast, Kermit builds the confidence of his little crew that will help him out when the time comes.

The musical numbers, courtesy of returning — and now Oscar-winning — songwriter Bret McKenzie all work, and almost all the jokes land, which is even more impressive considering that Muppets Most Wanted is running at or near top speed for pretty much its entire length. It’s wacky and zany and silly and smart, all on top of each other, and it doesn’t lack for a moderately heartwarming ending. Muppet fans: this is the movie you’ve been waiting for, some of you all your lives.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2014 13:59

    Good review. It’s fun for anyone, especially if you are already a fan of the Muppets.

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