Friday, May 2, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

And now for my second Muppet movie in a row. Only three years after The Muppets, we've got a sequel; Muppets Most Wanted (2014). This particular Muppet movie parodies a lot of other films while retaining vaudeville and musical numbers that are Muppet signatures. It ended up being pretty good.
Picking up at the exact moment the previous movie left off, Kermit the Frog and friends are elated by their revival's success and are approached by Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) to go on a world tour. Unknown to them, this is all part of a sinister plan of Constantine, the world's most evil frog, to become the greatest thief of all time. After making sure that Kermit is jailed as himself, Constantine impersonates him to use the Muppet's tour as a cover for his scheme. While Sam the Eagle of the CIA and Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) of Interpol investigate, the Muppets find their boss seems strangely changed even as Kermit desperately attempts to escape only to be thwarted by prison guard Nadya (Tina Fey). Only when Walter, Fozzie, and Animal realize the truth is there a chance to prevent Constantine from pulling off the crime of the century.
Muppets Most Wanted is a caper movie. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of sketch comedy and musical numbers included and it still has that variety show vibe that The Muppets are known for. I was actually worried that there would be less of that since the main plot was about the hero being swapped with the villain and trying to rob museums. But as per tradition, there are plenty of bits of surreal humor, meta-references, catchy songs, and a prolific use of cameos. I'll only mention two here because it would ruin some of the gags in the movie to reveal more of them. Many times the cameo is the punch line, after all. Lady Gaga and Tom Hiddleston both make appearances in this movie. Tom Hiddleston is an inmate at the prison after being jailed in Thor: The Dark World.
Most Wanted makes many references to other movies, including spy movies, prison movies, and crime capers of the 60's and 70's. It was clearly inspired by The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Pink Panther. The movie starts out with a song "We're Doing a Sequel" which is not only funny and catchy, but it also comments on movies and the film industry. There's a line in the song that goes, "And everybody knows the sequel's never quite as good." It's funny to have a movie actually say that, but I hope it wasn't an attempt to excuse the film for possibly being a bomb. While trying to pitch ideas for this sequel, The Swedish Chef appears in a spoofed scene from the old Swedish film The Seventh Seal playing chess with death. The idea is shot down because Americans don't like to read subtitles. Other movies that are referenced include The Shawshank Redemption, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Spy Who Loved Me, A Chorus Line, The Silence of the Lambs, and Mission: Impossible among others. They're easy to miss if you haven't seen those movies. I haven't seen some of the movies referenced, but I could still identify them because they are classics. The references will go over kids' heads, but adults will probably get a kick out of them. I  mean, seeing Kermit wearing a Hannibal Lecter face mask while in prison is just funny.
Watching The Muppet Show as a kid, I thought it was weird that we'd see these singing and dancing characters, but rarely see their feet as they danced. That seemed like an important part of dancing to me. There's a scene in Most Wanted that features Constantine and Badguy singing and dancing. Constantine, basically the Kermit puppet, is doing some pretty impressive dance moves for a puppet. I'm truly not sure how this was managed, it doesn't look like CGI or anything. Maybe one or more puppeteers were in "green screen suits" and edited out afterwards? The Muppets excel most when special effects are kept to a minimum and allow the magic and novelty of the puppeteering to shine. And shine it does! The puppet work was amazing. The Constantine and Badguy scene was remarkable. Others were impressive but you could tell where the puppeteers where probably hidden. A lot of scenes made me want to watch the special features on the DVD when it comes out to see how they actually pulled off some of the scenes.
As Kermit said, the sequel isn't quite as good. It's predecessor was better, but Muppets Most Wanted was a good time and a decent movie. It lacked the nostalgia of previous Muppet movies, but I still think The Muppets are moving in a good direction. There is a lot of fun songs and laughs to be had with this film; I laughed a lot at the gags and jokes because it's my kind of weird humor. The many cameos were hilarious and fun to watch for since many appear so unexpectedly. This is a decent movie that parents and kids will get a kick out of. It's worth getting a copy to enjoy as a family if you are fans of The Muppets. If not, it's still worth renting for a few laughs.

Who is your favorite Muppet? Comment below and tell me why!

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