Muppets Most Wanted
Written by James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller
Directed by James Bobin
The Muppets return again with a new adventure that feels strangely familiar. While it is great to see the Muppets actually being the stars of their movies again, Muppets Most Wanted lacks the emotional depth of some of the prior films to focus instead on a heist caper that features an evil twin and Muppets running wild under no supervision. The center core is buried a bit deeper, showing the Muppets can’t really survive on their own as they need Kermit’s guidance to keep them from drowning in their own excess.
In Muppets Most Wanted a new manager – Dominic Badguy – signs with the group and gets them to go on a world tour that suspiciously is happening in towns needed to get pieces for a jewel heist. More importantly, Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog, has escaped from his Russian gulag and managed to switch places with Kermit, who finds himself incarcerated while Constantine takes the place of our main frog. Hijinks then ensue.
Muppets Most Wanted shines when it’s doing meta-commentary and breaking the never-present fourth wall. It continues literally from the final seconds of The Muppets, complete with Muppet confusion on what to do next. The opening song will go on to be touted as a manifesto for the film itself, and I particularly like the song Constantine sings as an apology to Miss Piggy, because it summarizes his entire allure to the group and why no one seems to notice anything is wrong. Constantine becomes a Satan character, promising the Muppets whatever they want to keep them happy while he and Dominic Badguy plot to steal the crown jewels of England. The various characters take this to extremes, resulting in increasingly bizarre and disastrous acts. Both Constantine and Dominic use unbridled freedom as a weapon and a distraction, but it soon becomes apparent just why oversight and control is needed. At times Muppets Most Wanted turns into Muppets Needful Things, but luckily things get solved for they start getting Stephen King disturbing.
Kermit has been repeatedly shown as the rock of the family, in the films he either organizes the entire get famous plots or has to keep the crew in line once things start going off the wall. Nor is the evil twin scenario without precedent. Not only is it a common story trope, but it’s been done with the Muppets multiple times – such as when The Muppet Show was taken over by pigs – and even in the previous film with the Moopets (one of which pops up in the prison scenes!)
Muppets Most Wanted manages to find the perfect way to use Walter, a character who seemed forced upon the group in the prior film. As the member of the crew who hasn’t lives the stage life for decades, he doesn’t have his own little world going on and can see that something is wrong. Other Muppets have inklings of things, from Animal immediately noticing Constantine’s different smell to Miss Piggy’s uncertainty when “Kermit” is suddenly so eager to marry her. The song she sings when she is working out why things don’t feel right is another solid entry. Walter helps uncover what is really going on, and in doing so provides important plot information while keeping him from just getting a walk-on part.
Some of the performance pieces are intentionally bad to showcase how the group is spiraling out of control. While hilarious on their own, they get in the way of having creative numbers that deal with current pop culture. Of course, by doing that then Muppets Most Wanted would just turn into an episode of The Muppet Show. What we really need is a Muppet show back on television where there can be a continual creative output. A recurring show would also allow characters who have been neglected for the past two films to get their own moments.
Muppets Most Wanted doesn’t have the nostalgia-driven feels fest of the original (for better or for worse), but does manage to sneak a few good callbacks in just when you least expect them. The final song is a familiar one, but modified ever so slightly for those of us in the know. The tradition of using many characters from the original show that were largely unused since continues, with Muppets like Thog, Wayne and Wanda, The Mutations, and Bobby Benson popping up (among others!) There are tons and tons of famous people cameos, some of which are major roles, and a few that are familiar Muppet film faces.
I enjoyed Muppets Most Wanted, but if you aren’t keen on Muppets and Muppets-type humor, you probably aren’t going to have a good time. I’d argue my biggest complaint is the film doesn’t go far enough with the ridiculous humor, and should have just been firing jokes machine gun style. When Sam the Eagle and Ty Burrell are on screen, they were a fountain of crazy humor. Things slowed the most when plot related things were happening, and the lesser emotional quotient will be a drawback against Muppets Most Wanted becoming a classic. The important thing to me is that I felt like I got my time and money’s worth, so in that department Muppets Most Wanted was just what I wanted. Now let’s get a sequel that takes on Star Wars or Marvel, since Disney owns all that as well now.
Rated 7/10 (the goal, 1980s Robot, Janice, Rizzo, the car, the Asgardian, the scene not in the movie)
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