Muppets Most Wanted
Release Date: March 21, 2014
Director: James Bobin
Writers: James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey
MPAA Rating: PG
Muppets Most Wanted definitely feels like a Muppet movie. It follows up nicely on the excellent work The Muppets did reestablishing the franchise and it feels very much inline with the types of stories Jim Henson told. Unfortunately, while it is an entertaining, it doesn’t have the comedic highs or the classic musical numbers that the best Muppet films have had. In short, it’s a perfectly pleasant film if you are jonesing for more Muppets, but ultimately it’s kind of forgettable.
The film picks up at the exact moment The Muppets ended (amusingly with a song entitled “We’re Doing a Sequel”). The Muppets are back together and are working on a world tour. They are courted by Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), a slick promoter who undermines Kermit and weasels his way into a power position. It turns out this is all part of a master plan arranged by Badguy’s boss Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog, who looks identical to Kermit except for a large mole on his face. The two get Kermit arrested and sent to the gulag while Constantine takes over his life and uses the Muppets’ European shows as cover to rob a series of galleries in pursuit of an ultimate treasure.
I like the Constantine/Kermit switch for a number of reasons. For one thing, the ridiculousness of it feels very Muppets. Constantine sounds and acts nothing like Kermit, but no one really questions it (except, in a fantastic twist, Animal, who knows from the first moment that he’s a “bad frog”). I also enjoy it because there’s actually a deeper level at play. The Muppets don’t want to realize that Constantine isn’t Kermit because he gives them everything they want. He allows the shows to become unwatchable by giving into every character’s whims, which makes them happy, but makes the performance as a whole suffer. So even if “Kermit” is acting weird, he’s giving them what they want, so they don’t question it.
The real Kermit, meanwhile, must try to survive in a gulag full of angry inmates who quickly discover that he isn’t the real Constantine. The scenes in the prison are easily the highlight of the film, in large part because of a fantastic performance by Tina Fey, who plays Nadya the prison guard. Fey really seems at home in the role, which plays to her comedic strengths. And her relationship with Kermit is a joy to watch on-screen.
And there is also a subplot involving two agents looking for the thief stealing all of these European artifacts. The two agents are Jean Pierre Napoleon from Interpol (Ty Burrell) and Sam Eagle from the CIA. They make enjoyable foils for one another and their interrogation of the Muppets gives the film its best song (fittingly titled “Interrogation Song”).
While the film overall does a great job being a follow up to The Muppets and a spiritual successor to the previous Muppet films, there was one inconsistency that really bothered me. One of the main storylines in the film is that Miss Piggy wants to marry Kermit. Now, any longtime fan should remember that they actually got married in Muppets Take Manhattan. I know they were estranged at the beginning of The Muppets, but I don’t think it was ever implied that they were divorced. And since Bunsen Honeydew specifically mentions the previous films during “We’re Doing a Sequel,” it seemed really odd not to at least acknowledge the previous wedding and somehow explain it away. In the grand scheme of things, I realize it’s not a major issue, but I did find it needlessly distracting.
Overall, I like what they were trying to accomplish with this film, even if it never quite comes together the way it should. I also enjoyed all of the celebrity cameos, which feel more organic and entertaining than the ones in The Muppets. As a whole, it ultimately feels a little too long and a little too light on laughs, but it certainly captures the spirit of the original Muppet films. And in the end, a just-okay Muppet film is better than no Muppet film at all.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.