It’s hard to think of anything that has been more integral to my cultural awareness than the Muppets.
I mean, I’m not necessarily a fanatic, but the Muppets have
this level of significance that spans generations – one of my earliest memories is sitting with my brother reading/listening to The Muppets Take Manhattan
book/record over and over again. They connect to us through a very special avenue of
nostalgia in a way that no other figures in pop culture can.
So when 2011 saw the return of the Muppets to the big screen, I was ecstatic. I was practically foaming with anticipation for the film and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
Come 2014, and we’re given a new movie – one that takes place
immediately after the events of the previous film. Muppets Most Wanted opens with a tremendous musical number from Oscar-winning composer Bret McKenzie that sets up the plot of the movie: what do the Muppets do next?
Enter Domenic Badguy (pronounced “Bahd-zhee,” which is French
for “good guy”) played by Ricky Gervais, who manipulates his way into managing the Muppets and immediately booking them on a world tour.
(The larger Muppets seem…convinced?)
But something doesn’t feel right, and soon we learn that
Domenic has sinister intentions. His boss Constantine, the “World’s Most
Dangerous Frog” and a dead ringer for Kermit, has escaped from a Russian gulag. Soon, Kermit is replaced by Constantine and the ol’switcheroo is in effect.
The World Tour, as it turns out, is just a cover for the villains to commit robberies across Europe despite the best efforts of Interpol’s Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell invoking his best
amalgam of every French inspector in cinematic history) and the CIA’s Sam
Meanwhile, Kermit is thrown into the gulag under the obsessively watchful eye of Tina Fey’s Nadya. Now Kermit has to
decide whether to stay in a place with people that need him (to direct
the talent show, obviously), or find a way to escape and get back to his
Muppet family, who he worries have already forgotten him.
Hijinks ensue and spoiler: all the loose ends are eventually tied up.
(Hmm. I find it hard to believe that Muppets still read newspapers.)
Overall, I enjoyed the movie but it certainly wasn’t without a few faults. The music, while almost entirely great (“I’ll Get You What You Want”
has been stuck in my head on a loop for far too long at this point), was shoehorned in a little too often and the movie feels like it runs about 10 minutes too long.
However, the biggest problem that I had – and this is going
to sound terribly nit-picky – was with the usage of CGI during a few
scenes. I like my muppetry without the aid of a computer. I’m not sure if that
makes me a stubborn old codger, or if I’m totally sane and rational in that
need a third?
Tiny issues aside, this is an incredibly enjoyable movie. Is
it as good as the previous Muppet film? No, and I doubt we’ll ever get one that
good again. But it is close.
The writing is exceptionally clever, with many
jokes aimed directly at parents, including a tremendous Ingmar Bergman
reference involving the Swedish Chef, and I was giddy that one of the best lines ever in a Muppet movie was spoken by Lew Zealand, who happens
to be a personal favorite.
(Yes, the “fish-boomerang” guy. Don’t judge me.)
Like any Muppet movie, don’t blink or you’ll miss some fantastic cameos as well as a lot of main roles filled out by several of the Hollywood elite.
At the end of the day, kids are going to love this movie, and parents
will too. It’s totally entertaining and doesn’t really have any lulls. Younger children
probably won’t get all of the mildly intricate plot points, but they’ll laugh and possibly
just kinda dance around, if my viewing is any indication.
Wanted will cement the Muppets as a significant piece of our pop-cultural
identity for yet another generation, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Muppets Most Wanted opens in theaters everywhere on March 21. Check out the trailer below: