“Only one frog who can bring justice and set things right.” Muppets Most Wanted

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I suppose Jim Henson’s Muppets are dusty, musty artifacts of the hippie dippy 1970s in which I grew up. However, they are artifacts for which I have much affection… and charity.

The latest effort by Disney (the current owners of the Muppet franchise) to reboot this sentimental throwback for a modern era’s more cynical tastes is Muppets Most Wanted. Does it work as a film? Not totally. But it reinforced for me as a film-goer that my predispositions seem to color my enjoyment of whatever I view.

Whether how unfairly I may have judged American Hustle or how generously I may have assessed Monuments Men, Muppets Most Wanted demonstrated for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I walk into a film with prejudice to like (or loathe) it will impact how I judge the work.

So, be warned, I definitely had a corny, soft spot in my Gen X heart for this one.

Muppets Most Wanted is a slight improvement over its predecessor, 2011′s The Muppets, which I found cloyingly self-reverential and too cute by half. I suppose part of the blame rests with that film’s screenwriter Jason Segel who likely had too much adoration for the source material to modernize it in any discernible way.

In contrast, Muppets Most Wanted, the second installment in the Muppets film franchise(or actually eighth if you include all the Muppets’ cinematic output from the 70s on) has a darker, more lightly satirical edge, even spoofing Ingmar Bergman at one point. It shamelessly riffs on what is arguably the best Muppet film The Great Muppet Caper, with its refreshingly acerbic vibe (but alas no Diana Rigg this time around).

In essence, this edition in the Muppet saga is a road picture wherein the Muppets tour Europe;  and, unbeknownst to the scruffy band, head frog Kermit has been replaced by a nefarious jewel thief named Constantine (whose only physical difference is a black mole on his visage). Constantine’s plot to use these hapless performers as a comic distraction for his heists is abetted by a fairly wry, though disappointingly tame Ricky Gervais.

The movie is predictably episodic, but the various European locales allow for some silly sight gags and typical Muppet hijinks across Germany, England, Spain, Ireland, and Russia. Human cast member Ty Burrell fares best as an Inspector Clouseau knock-off. Tina Fey, as a gulag matron who falsely imprisons Kermit, never quite rises above the Herculean task (for her) that a faux Russian accent requires.

What saves the film ultimately is a very catchy musical score written by Flight of the Conchords‘ Bret McKenzie (who won an Academy Award for the prior Muppet flick). I found myself grinning ear to ear whenever these dirty, scruffy puppets launched into song. In fact, I suspect the enterprise would have been markedly improved if sung throughout.

Also, as in any Muppet adventure, there is great joy for adults in the audience for the insane array of cameos – from Tom Hiddleston to Miranda Richardson, Christoph Waltz to Ray Liotta, Stanley Tucci to Lady Gaga, Celine Dion to Chloe Grace Moretz.

I will always have warmth in my heart for The Muppets, a gang of felt creatures who helped teach my generation the importance of acceptance and kindness and understanding and tolerance. At one point, Fozzie and Walter exclaim of their best pal Kermit, “Only one frog who can bring justice and set things right.” For that reason alone, I hope Disney continues to crank out fair-to-middling films, spotlighting these characters who have never lost those precious Me Decade values from their over-stuffed DNA.

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Please check out this coverage from BroadwayWorld of upcoming book launch events. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan; by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan; and by Memory Lane Gift Shop in Columbia City, Indiana. Bookbound and Memory Lane both also have copies of Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series.

 

19 thoughts on ““Only one frog who can bring justice and set things right.” Muppets Most Wanted

  1. loved this…and thanks for not making me attend this movie this past week-end…(am I conflicted or what?) but I do love AMERICAN HUSTLE (much to my surprise)…which was rather muppety actually! I could not even recognize mr. bale — and his cute at home wife blew my mind! and you resemble the “silver linings” kid to the max!

    • You are so sweet! Thanks! And, yes, I knew it wouldn’t be right to make you and Don go see this. I made you suffer through too much of this stuff when I was a kid. And so glad you enjoyed American Hustle, as I am really enjoying rediscovering that film through your eyes

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  2. i too have a soft spot for the memories of those muppets, and i love all 3 of the humans involved, though it sounds as though they were a bit wasted in this film, other than increasing the draw for adults. i do find them lovable though in general, so i may take a grandchild or 3 to see it and i’m sure we’ll each get something out of it., as long as we last in the seats. i’m happy you’ve finally made up with american hustle too )

    • My pleasure, Beth. I think you all will enjoy it. It’s a fun movie, and honors the memory of these little creatures pretty well. And, yes, after hearing my parents delight with American Hustle, I’m reassessing my take on that one

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  3. “I will always have warmth in my heart for The Muppets, a gang of felt creatures who helped teach my generation the importance of acceptance and kindness and understanding and tolerance. ” :-)

    Going to see the film today for that exact reason especially the first half sentence!

  4. Pingback: by Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews) “Only one frog who can bring justice and set things right.” Muppets Most Wanted

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