The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>Muppets Most Wanted</i> | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Muppets Most Wanted

The Muppets become embroiled in the plans of an international criminal.

Directed by: James Bobin
Starring: Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tom Hiddleston, Christoph Waltz, Salma Hayek, Danny Trejo, Stanley Tucci, Ray Liotta, Lady Gaga, Zach Galifianakis, Frank Langella

Following the success of their 2011 movie, The Muppets debate plans for how the sequel should plan out. Convinced by a shady entertainment agent, Dominic Badguy (Gervais), the gang embark on a tour of Europe's top cities. Badguy, however, is secretly the number two to criminal mastermind Constantine, "the world's most dangerous frog". Exploiting the similarities in their appearance, Constantine has Kermit framed and sent to a Siberian gulag. Assuming the guise of Kermit, Constantine uses the Muppets' tour as cover for his plans to steal London's Crown Jewels.
For decades, Hollywood producers acted in a fatherly manner towards cinemagoers. The whims of audiences were ignored as Hollywood decided the content and themes of their output without a second thought as to what viewers might demand. It was a formula that produced hundreds of great Hollywood movies and audiences were perfectly happy with the cinematic gifts bestowed upon them. Now, in this age of test screenings and audience polls, Hollywood has allowed itself to be held hostage by the great unwashed, and the results are all too often disastrous. Movie producers are now so concerned with giving us what we want (or what they believe we want) that they've forgotten to give us what we need: quality movies.
This is the theme explored by James Bobin in the sequel to his impressive 2011 Muppets reboot. Kermit, the Muppets' father figure who always makes sure they get what they need, is replaced by the villainous Constantine, who simply gives them what they want in order to appease them and allow him room to plot his evil plans. The current economic troubles of the world are largely down to a culture of appeasement, "yes men" wielding too much power, so it's pleasing to see this addressed on film. But who would have thought we'd get a message like this in a Muppets movie?
Of course, a message is only as good as the envelope its wrapped in, and Muppets Most Wanted is one highly entertaining package. Its 2011 predecessor seemed to ease the Muppets in gently, devoting much of its screen time to its human stars, Amy Adams and Jason Segel. Here, the Muppets are front and center, plot taking a backseat to the anarchic antics of Jim Henson's wonderful pop culture contribution. Fey embraces her role with relish and the vast number of celebrity cameos is testament to how well loved this franchise is.
The songs are the equal of those heard in the previous film but are given an extra toe-tapping aspect, employing a distinctive sound, like a seventies update of twenties ragtime, not unlike the unique musical stylings of Steely Dan.
Gags come at the rapid pace of the Zuckers' Airplane movies, and what makes them work so well is that they're often jokes that only work because they're emanating from the felt mouths of Muppets. References to contemporary pop culture are practically non-existent, which means, unlike many modern animated movies, the film will hold up in decades to come, as the original set of movies have.
If you're a cynic, or a film snob, Muppets Most Wanted may not be what you want, but if you try it sometime, you just might find, it's exactly what you need.

Eric Hillis