The Quarantine Stream: It's Time to Admit 'Muppets Most Wanted' is One of the Best Muppet Movies
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Muppets Most Wanted
Where You Can Stream It: Disney+
The Pitch: A direct sequel to The Muppets, but a lot sillier.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: I loved The Muppets, the 2011 movie that essentially rebooted the Muppet franchise and introduced a new Muppet, Walter. After that film – which was funny, and charming, and featured great songs – I was ready for more. And yet, when a sequel arrived in 2014, the reaction seemed muted. No one seemed to downright hate Muppets Most Wanted, but the general consensus seemed to be that the movie was a step-down, especially since Jason Segel, who co-wrote and starred in The Muppets, wasn’t involved. This lukewarm reaction kept me from giving the film a shot – until now. And I know I’m not alone – many people seemed to have completely skipped Muppets Most Wanted. And I’m here to tell you that Muppets Most Wanted is good, actually.
But before we go any further, let me get this out of the way: no, Muppets Most Wanted isn’t as emotional as The Muppets. It probably won’t make you cry, or tug at your heartstrings. And you’ll definitely miss the presence of Amy Adams. But that’s okay, because this movie is funny as hell. In fact, I’d say I laughed more consistently here than I did during the previous movie. I’d dare say in terms of humor, this is one of the best Muppet movies.
Muppet movies are rarely direct sequels – while films and events that came before are sometimes mentioned, most Muppet movies could be chalked-up as soft reboots. Time and time again, the Muppet characters act like they’re just meeting for the first time, even though we know that’s not true. Or the Muppets are playing characters themselves, like in Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island.
But Muppets Most Wanted tries something different – it’s a direct sequel to The Mupptes. So direct that it literally picks up seconds after that film ends, and then launches into a musical number about being a sequel. But while The Muppets had to go through the task of reintroducing all the Muppets and having them reunite, Muppets Most Wanted starts with the band already back together, which makes things a lot less complicated.
Now that they’re back together, our fine felt friends are talked into going on a world tour by their new manager, Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais). As his name implies, Dominic is up to no good. He’s the right-hand man of Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog. And wouldn’t ya know it, Constantine looks exactly like Kermit, save for a mole on his face. The world tour is part of a bigger scheme: Constantine will switch places with Kermit and use the Muppet tour as a cover in order to steal the Crown Jewels.
Sure enough, Kermit ends up in a Russian Gulag where he’s tormented by a singing Tina Fey (who also has a crush on him), and Constantine takes over the Muppet Show. And even though Constantine is terrible at impersonating Kermit, he manages to trick all the other Muppets, because of course he does. Eventually, new Muppet Walter realizes something is up, and teams with Animal and Fozzie to rescue Kermit.
It’s a ridiculous plot, and that’s okay – because Muppets Most Wanted revels in its ridiculousness. There’s something so refreshing about watching the Muppets be completely silly. Yes, it was nice to have the emotional weight of the previous film – but to have the follow-up be committed solely to jokes is nice, too. Bret McKenzie returned to handle the songs, and while I think the songs in The Muppets are just slightly better, the tunes on hand here are great, too. The standout is Constantine’s “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu),” where he tries to woo Miss Piggy.
Constantine is a standout in general – the character is consistently hilarious. Yes, the joke that none of the Muppets can see through his bad disguise is simple and even a bit one-note, but it works every damn time. Having Constantine consistently get things wrong only makes it even funnier – at one point he calls Gonzo “Zongo” and Miss Piggy “Miss Pig,” and on both occasions, I laughed my ass off. There’s a part where he’s watching old clips of Kermit to get his impersonation down, and he’s so bad that it that he even manages to somehow turn Kermit’s famous “YAYYYYY!” into “YESSSSS!” Again: are these smart, nuanced jokes? Absolutely not! But god damn it, they are funny.
And I haven’t even mentioned the cameos. The cameos here are actually better than the previous film – folks like Saoirse Ronan and Tom Hiddleston show up and don’t even have a single line; Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo share multiple musical numbers together; Christoph Waltz waltzes with Sweetums. What’s not to love here? If you’ve spent years assuming Muppets Most Wanted is a step-down from the previous film, as I did, now is the time to realize how wrong you’ve been.
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