Oct 6, 2014

[Movies] Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

I really like the Muppets. I cant totally explain why, but I do. And I'm a bit of a sucker for the various Muppet movies, so you can imagine how happy I was when the franchise found new life with its 2011 revival with the movie, The Muppets. And I have to admit that it wasn't a totally amazing movie - but I was still glad to see them back in circulation.

And so now we have Muppets Most Wanted acting as the sequel to that movie - but really all Muppet movies since The Muppet Movie back in 1979, but that's besides the point. And it's nice to see that the whole 2011 experiment is sort of paying off - at least in terms of additional movies going forward. Or so we hope.

And while the "first" movie just sort of came out as okay for me, I have to admit that I rather enjoyed this movie more. And it's rare for that to happen with any sequel - even a self-aware sequel that goes as far as to state that sequels tend to be bad. Maybe that just put me in the right mindset to be appreciate and fun the movie could generate, or something like that.

But I still had a lot of fun with it.

Synopsis: Muppets Most Wanted is the 2014 sequel to the 2011 movie. This movie was directed by James Bobin, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller. The musical score was composed by Christophe Beck with additional songs by Bret McKenzie.

The movie begins right after the credits finish rolling for the first movie, with our lovable Muppets now left with the bigger question of what to do next. But of course the music starts playing and at the very least it's clear that the Muppets are doing a sequel - and this is it. But along comes Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) - and please pronounce his name in the proper French fashion - and he makes the recommendations for the Muppets to go on a global tour beginning in Europe.

But at the same time one of the world's most dangerous criminal masterminds, Constantine (Matt Vogel) manages to escape a Siberian Gulag. The movie quickly establishes two things: (1) that Constantine is almost a perfect double of Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmire) save for a mole above his right lip, and (2) that he's actually working together with Dominic Badguy. And their grand scheme includes replacing Kermit with Constantine and using the Muppet's traveling show as cover for various crimes and heists related to some bigger plot.

As I've written many different times before, the charm of the Muppets relies on cute situations and a bit of oddball fourth wall breaking humor. And of course we can't forget the singing and the dancing and the inevitable celebrity cameos. And this movie has more than its fair share of all these and more, which contributes to its overall humor.

For the most part, this movie remained nicely centered on the Muppets alone without the need for human characters to drive the central plot format as seen in the 2011 movie. But we do have three relatively key human performances that tied to the story in meaningful ways. Rickey Gervais made an interesting double agent who struggles with the fact that he's playing second fiddle to a criminal frog. Ty Burrell brought his usual charm to the role of French Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon who made for an interesting partner for now CIA agent Sam the Eagle (Eric Jacobson). And Tina Fey was delightful as the Siberian Gulag officer Nadya who certainly has a unique interest in Kermit the Frog once get gets incarcerated in place of Constantine.

The unusual plot of the need to rescue Kermit while revealing Constatines big plot and all that jazz oddly worked well to keep the story moving forward at a steady clip. Sure, the various touring shows that the Muppets put on weren't all that thought-out and just provided venues for some for the cameos. And yes, the larger number of Muppets re pretty much relegated to rather minor bits with Kermit and Constantine taking most of the focus, but on the whole I think this worked well for the story. There are just way too many Muppets to assure everyone of a spotlight moment.

The music was fun and very in tune with what we expect from the Muppets. From the opening song "We're Doing a Sequel" to the feel-good number "Together Again" are all generally a lot of fun. Nothing is ever perfect of course and some of the songs are a little weird. But they all make for a pretty song Muppet experience when taken all together.

I actually liked Muppets Most Wanted more than the 2011 movie, but I think most folks may have a different opinion. Still, both are great movies and we're all fortunate that the Muppets can even talk about sequel comparisons again. On the whole the movie gets 4 silly moments of the Muppets not realizing Constantine isn't Kermit out of a possible 5.

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