Fresh off of their Hollywood comeback, the Muppets take their show on a “world tour” with the help of talent manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais). Little do they know that Badguy is working with the world’s number one criminal and Kermit doppelganger, Constantine, to steal England’s crown jewels and frame the Muppets.
I’ll be honest with you. Muppets: Most Wanted doesn’t have the heart that made 2011’s The Muppets so successful, and I’m pretty sure that has something to do with Jason Segel not being involved in this film (He wrote and starred in the last film, by the way). But that doesn’t mean the sequel wasn’t charming. It still has the novelty of Muppet-brand humor (that is, meta jokes and “absurdist” characters), and it still emphasizes funny yet heartfelt messages for young viewers.
To even pretend the sequel will be as good (or better) than the 2011 film is plain ignorance. I mean, even the movie is aware of this. That’s why the opening number is called “We’re Doing a Sequel,” and it’s all about how the Muppets know this movie isn’t going to be as good as the 2011 film, but they’re doing it anyway because it’s a bankable franchise for Disney (which, as Gonzo jokes in the song, is just waiting around for Tom Hanks to make Toy Story 4). And technically, as Dr. Bunsen Honeydew points out, this movie isn’t actually the “sequel.” It’s the seventh film. Clever? I think so.
And that’s exactly what this movie capitalizes on—cleverness. Where the last movie focused on nostalgia (in order to remind us that the Muppets’ values and characters are, in fact, timeless), Muppets: Most Wanted focused on screwball comedy and “blink-and-you-miss-them” references. This, in my opinion, was fantastic. Perhaps the movie was sloppily executed at times, but the comedy is classic (Anyone who tells you otherwise is one of those people who can’t laugh at a movie unless there’s a five-minute vomit scene).
A perfect example? Ty Burrell’s Interpol detective character, Jean Pierre Napoleon. He’s an Inspector Clouseau-like foil to Sam the Eagle’s CIA agent throughout the entire movie, but he’s also a blatant French stereotype. His lunch hours are six hours long, he gets eight weeks of paid vacation, he always clocks out of the job early, and, for god’s sake, his name is pretentiously French: Jean Pierre Napoleon.
Of course, there’s also the usual plot transparency. Like how the villain is named Dominic Badguy (like Chris Cooper’s Tex Richman in 2011’s The Muppets), or how the taxi shown when Kermit is mistaken for Constantine is headed to “Plotpointsberg.” And let’s not forget all of the references. Like The Seventh Seal joke during “We’re Doing a Sequel” when Swedish Chef suggests doing a subtitled film. Or the multiple Shawshank Redemption jokes. Or the Chorus Line joke.
“Bailey, these jokes are way over kids’ heads.” Yes, they are. But they’re not for kids. They’re for you. Most kids don’t understand the finer points of satire, but they do understand funny voices, flatulence, and song-and-dance numbers. Those are their jokes.
Speaking of the songs, I love this freaking music. Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie returned to write Muppets: Most Wanted‘s songs (He won the Oscar for 2011’s “Man or Muppet”) and killed it yet again. He just knows how to capture the Muppet jauntiness and combine it with clever lyrics (See: “We’re Doing a Sequel”). But he also adds a more contemporary feel to this soundtrack. Like “I’ll Get You What You Want,” which sounds like a Pharrell song mixed with Flight of the Conchord‘s “The Most Beautiful Girl.” And don’t get me started on Miss Piggy’s “Something So Right” with Celine Dion. It’s awesome.
But whatever. You probably care more about the celebrity cameos, right? Personally, I thought the cameos were a little much this time around (and some wasted good talent). Here’s the list: Christoph Waltz (who does the waltz with Sweetums), Stanley Tucci, Tom Hiddleston, Frank Langella, Salma Hayek, Ray Liotta, Tom Hollander, Danny Trejo, Jemaine Clement (also of Flight of the Conchords), Saoirse Ronan, Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Hugh Bonneville, Til Schweiger (Hugo Stiglitz!), Diddy, Miranda Richardson, Chloe Moretz, James McAvoy, Toby Jones, Usher (who plays an usher at the wedding, naturally), Zach Galifianakis, Josh Groban, Rob Corddry.
Overall, Muppets: Most Wanted is a screwball caper with a solid soundtrack and hilarious pop culture references. While 2011’s The Muppets focused primarily on “family” and the nostalgia that made the Muppets so iconic for the people who grew up with them, this movie reminds us that the Muppets are comedians at heart—and clever ones at that. The movie has its weaknesses, particularly in its unnecessary celebrity cameos, but the laughs make up for it.
Goodnight, Danny Trejo.