Back when The Muppets was released in 2011, I was rediscovering my love of this crew. Writing Muppet Mondays, researching, watching a million episodes of The Muppet Show, watching any clip I could find on YouTube — this all made me into a bigger fan. So seeing the movie — my first Muppet movie on the big screen — was a huge deal. The Muppets was an emotional experience for that reason. So much build-up, so much expectation to see these little guys on screen, living their separate lives, and coming to terms with their drop in popularity — it wasn’t exactly the zany Muppets you could tune in and watch on The Muppet Show back in the day. (Or even on Muppets Tonight, which I watched religiously.)
Three years later, I realize my love of The Muppets was related more to the Muppets actually returning then to whether or not it was a good film. Buried in my crazy enthusiasm from seeing it back then, I was still aware that it wasn’t perfect. But it still made me smile, cry, laugh, and introduced me to one of my greatest (recent) Muppet joys, Walter. In the years that passed since the Jason Segel-fueled move, I’ve read and researched more about the Muppets, fell hard for the Jim Henson: The Biography, and gained a greater understanding of the legacy of this company and these personalities. This, I think, has also pulled me away from The Muppets a bit.
Needless to say, I was very nervous going into Muppets Most Wanted last Saturday evening. (You would have thought I wrote the thing.) There’s a lot of pressure for these movies in particular to do well at the box office, and with all the wonderful promotions and crazy TV appearances they have been doing (I can only imagine how tired the puppeteers are), you know they are pushing for this franchise to grow. So when everything seems to hang in the balance of a movie doing well, you want it to be even better.
I honestly believe this one is a winner.
//instagram.com/p/llBRrKDPjI/embed/Gone are the sad faces and the coulda woulda shouldas from The Muppets. In their place, we have a group of lovable, crazy weirdos who are pumped to work together and want to start immediately. They contemplate what to do next (in a song, of course), and end up hiring Ricky Gervais’ Dominic Badguy (pronounced bad-gee) as their manager so they can embark on a World Tour. Kermit is not too excited about this. He thinks they need to start small, but all of the Muppets are too excited to listen to him, and so focused on themselves that they don’t even realize that Kermit is ferociously replaced with the worst criminal in the world and almost-twin (except for a mole) Constantine.
Constantine and Dominic are determined to steal the crown jewels of London while the Muppets are performing all over Europe, and Kermit is stuck in a Russian jail a.k.a gulag with prisoner Ray Liotta and a love stricken Tina Fey, as the jail warden. Will anyone notice the real Kermit is missing? Will Constantine and Dominic get caught by the dream team of French interpol agent (Ty Burrell) and Sam the Eagle?
It’s zany fun, punctuated with memorable songs from Bret McKenzie (I cannot get them out of my head), running jokes, appearances from Muppets we haven’t seen awhile (there’s a great scene where they poke fun at the last film), some secret cameos, and for all the laughs, there was definitely a scene that had me sniffling a little bit.
Muppets Most Wanted is a return to The Muppet Show days and I was glad to see it. Because part of their charm is trying out crazy things that might not make any sense, making people laugh, and semi-wrestling with their roles in this family. Kermit questions himself as a leader, Piggy wonders about her relationship with her frog, and now, we have Walter, who is so deeply invested in who the Muppets used to be and a little apprehensive about reminding them who they all are.
Instead of working hard to hit all the emotional and nostalgic points like they did in The Muppets, those just naturally happen here and, best of all, it’s more balanced with the comedy we’ve come to expect from them. Another well-done adjustment was the focus on the Muppet characters and not so much the humans. Don’t get me wrong: I loved every minute of screen time with Ricky, Tina, and Ty, but none of their roles overshadowed who the movie was truly about.
A few other highlights:
- The Muppets Most Wanted music had to be a little more complex than the previous film because I noticed the Muppets singing in different ranges and sounding so crisp and awesome. (You can hear it in “We’re Doing a Sequel”, particularly the “we get to do it all again” lyric.)
- Matt Vogel is a total God as Constantine. He’s deliciously evil and funny, and I couldn’t get over his performance in “I’ll Get You What You Want”. I was laughing so hard, and it’s one of the silliest, best songs from the Muppets ever. (Also: I want to see more of Constantine.)
- Miss Piggy looks stunning in every scene. Her wardrobe is absolutely drool-worthy, and I couldn’t wait to see what she would wear next.
- Sam the Eagle and Ty Burrell are amazing together. It was so great to have more of Sam, but I loved them playing off one another — just they are complete opposites. A TRUE BROMANCE. (And a hilarious running gag.)
- A wonderful (and hysterical) Broadway moment (that also has special meaning to me).
My two reservations were the awkward CGI that had me cringing at one point of the movie. Totally could have been a stronger scene. And where oh where is my cute Bean Bunny? I was disappointed in his absence in the last film, and I was hoping to see him back this time. No such luck. DID HE LEAVE THE MOVIES FOREVER? (High five if you get that joke.)
Lastly, I have to mention the awesome puppeteering skills. I was absolutely dumbfounded by some of the tricks the Muppets were pulling this time around, and when you see the credits, it’s awe-inspiring to see just how many more characters the puppeteers voiced in this movie compared to the last one. You can tell they work tirelessly to bring life to all of these characters, and their dedication and talents should absolutely not be ignored.
I leave you with this: I’ve been listening to the soundtrack constantly all week without getting tired of it and I’ve been frantically trying to find an extra two hours this weekend where I can go see the movie again. It’s that good and I do not want to miss opening weekend.
As always, I’m holding tight to my hope of more Muppets. EVERYWHERE. Because they are… wanted. (Get it?)