There are few things human beings simply cannot live without – food, water, shelter and, every few years or so, a Muppet movie. While we were weren’t entirely fond of the gang’s last outing, this sequel is the sure-fire jolt to the funny bone fans have been patiently waiting for. More credit where it’s due, director James Bobin worked out all the kinks and seems to know where to take things from here on in. To quote a certain frog, Yaaay!!!
The Muppets are a very self-aware bunch which, among a laundry list of criteria, is part of their charm. As such, the film starts right on the heels of the closing number in the last film. It’s a dance number about, go figure, sequels and so there we are, not a minute in and the gang is off and running with the self-referential humor. Muppets Most Wanted opts not to pluck the nostalgic heartstrings or waste time reintroducing Jim Henson’s famous foam and felt creations and simply tells an interesting and funny, make that a very very funny story. Moreover it gets back to what most Muppets fans wanted – hilarity, hijinx and putting the human element on the back burner (or at least kept to a minimum). Now that the band is back together, the crux of this story hinges on Kermit clearing his name and getting back where he belongs.
The most fun a Muppets movie can have is when they’re traveling or involved in a caper (yes, we’re admittedly more than a little partial to Jim Henson’s 1981 masterpiece, so what?). This globe-trotting adventure, one that has two narratives, blends a triumphant comeback world tour (which finds the Muppets playing to sold out crowds) and a maniacal subplot (the show, unbeknownst to them, is a cover for the robberies perpetrated by their new tour manager, Dominic Badguy, played so brilliantly by Ricky Gervais).
To make matters worse, Kermit has been imprisoned in a Ukrainan gulag and replaced by Constantine, the world’s most dangerous criminal. But it’s so obviously not Kermit that, in that trademark self-aware style, leads to an exchange like, “You mean all this time I’ve been locked up in a Russian gulag, no one, not one single person from the Muppets except Animal noticed I’d been replaced by an evil criminal mastermind?!?” to which Fozzy responds, “It sounds worse than it was.”
Constantine (voiced by Matt Vogel) is not only one of the most hilarious elements at work but actually one of the very best characters in almost 60 years of Muppet mania. His character, both individual and motivations, combined with a personality so driven by hubris gets laughs time and again. It’s not just enough for him to be in charge but there’s a whole song devoted to being number 1. While the human counterpart more than slowed things down in Bobin’s 2011 film Gervais (as Number 2) is not distracting and better he just loves every second of screen time.
That said, a Muppets movie wouldn’t be a Muppets movie without cameos and secondary characters. Additionally it is Ty Burrell and the Sam the Eagle who also get big laughs. Then there’s Tina Fey as Nadya the warden, plus a slew of minute cameos like James McAvoy (as a delivery boy), Christoph Waltz (who dances the Waltz…get it?? waka waka!), even Danny Trejo (who oddly enough is playing himself) and others who deliver the goods in this the seventh sequel to The Muppets Movie.
A large part of that success goes to Bret McKenzie who wrote the film’s hilarious songs including “I’ll Get You What You Want” which is even more crowd-pleasing than his Oscar-nominated “Man or Muppet”. The film just keeps on giving despite appearing that they could have wrapped things up 30 minutes earlier. But that’s not how the Muppets operate is it? They don’t give people what they expect and as such this “Unnecessarily Extended Edition” Blu-Ray (even though it’s light on supplements) is endlessly enjoyable finding more opportunities to break the fourth wall that are so meta and delightful.
That says a lot for the staying power of these characters but Muppets Most Wanted is probably the best Muppets films since The Great Muppet Caper (again, we’re super fans). The 2 hour runtime may seem excessively long for a Muppet movie but it all works and allows the team to cram in every joke, plot point, song and self-aware reference they deem fit to share with us. From Constantine trying to speak like Kermit (hilarious!) to Ty Burrell and the Sam the Eagle having a badge measuring contest, this sequel is a blast.