Rarely does a franchise translate so well from generation to generation. Introduced to the world by Jim Henson in the mid-’50s, The Muppets have shown uncanny ability to flow and change with the times. Ageless puppets that seem to be universally beloved by both old and young, audiences and celebrities. Characters, that as far as we’re concerned, are operating independent of any puppet master. Something quite unique occurs to any person who happens to be on camera with them. A small twinkle in the eye, a slight childlike grin. Not too many other characters have quite this effect on people.
Muppets Most Wanted is a follow-up to The Muppets, but as we’re so kindly informed during the first song-and-dance number, this is actually the seventh sequel since the original film, but who’s counting, right? Speaking of the first musical number, the entire song is a free-association brainstorming session concerning what this movie should be about. Self-awareness has always been a Muppets mainstay, and this song merely sets up how gloriously self-referential the movie will become.
During that opening number not one of the Muppets speculated the true plot of the movie though. Through their loveable naiveté the Muppets have hired a new manager with an ominous sounding name, Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) to promote a new world tour. Halfway across the world, locked away in a Russian Gulag is The World’s Most Dangerous Frog, Constantine (Matt Vogel). Constantine escapes, in an action tracking shot that outdoes many of the action movies which have hit theaters recently. Constantine has an evil plan. Slap a replica of his noticeable mole onto Kermit’s face, have the police apprehend Kermit and take him back to the Gulag, while he takes over the Muppets and travels the world committing crimes.
Constantine really is the star of the show here. Vogel’s voice work is masterful. Usually when a movie equates funny sounding accents with comedy, the result is dire (see: Despicable Me 2). Though, “Muppets Most Wanted” is a delightful exception to that rule. Witnessing Constantine’s tough transformation from hardened Russian amphibian to cuddly show runner is downright hilarious. How Vogel is able to meld Constantine’s ridiculous accent with Kermit’s equally ridiculous, but iconic, voice is really something to behold.
The cameos come furiously fast as notable celebs pop up in the unlikeliest of places. Where else will you see Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo and Jemaine Clement dancing in a chorus line, singing showtunes, while in a Russian prison? Good-natured ribbing is dished out to every celeb. Get a ton of famous people, throw them in a movie with Muppets, and suddenly they’re the ones that are star struck. Such is the magic of Muppets.
New Muppet Walter (Peter Linz) who was introduced in “The Muppets” takes a back
seat here. His appearances almost feel a little forced like maybe he had more to do with the story, but his impact was scaled down in the editing room. That’s OK though, since Walter was never the strongest aspect of The Muppets anyway.
The musical numbers, which are lovingly supervised by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame, are energetically comical. None of the songs measure up to the masterpiece that was Man or Muppet, but each stand out in their own right, especially Constantine’s introductory villain song. Muppets Most Wanted packs in everything you’d expect from a Muppet movie. Songs, jokes, puns, cameos, and laughs. A perfect outing for the whole family.