In a world where cinema screens are filled with cynical, cash grab reboots, remakes and pointless sequels, The Muppets reboot of a few years ago stood out head and shoulders above the rest. It had the perfect mix of reverence and love for what came before, while changing enough to make make the characters and story work in a way modern audiences would respond to. It was the kind of well intentioned, well executed reboot that almost makes the cynical, cash grabby ones worth it. Now, as much as I liked 2011’s The Muppets, I was still a little wary of a sequel coming out so soon. But bugger me if they didn’t go and make something even better with Muppets Most Wanted.
Starting during the end credits of the original reboot, the Muppets, led by Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmore) aren’t sure what to do next, now that they’ve saved their theatre. Enter Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), calming to be a promoter who can help the Muppets undertake a massive world tour. They accept and are off. Meanwhile, in Russia, Constantine (Matt Vogal), the world’s greatest criminal who also happens to be an exact double for Kermit, escapes from a Gulag.
During a show in Berlin, Constantine captures Kermit and has him sent to take his place in the Gulag, while Constantine infiltrates the Muppet troupe under the guise of Kermit. Now, Constantine and Badguy are free to rob the treasures of the world as the Muppets tour rolls through the world’s major cities. All while Kermit is under the watchful eye of Gulag commandant Nadya (Tina Fey). As the robberies mount up, French inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and Sam the American Eagle (Eric Jacobson) are sent to investigate.
I loved the smallness of The Muppets (2011). It was all about identity and not only discovering who you really are, but being happy with who you really are. It was a small, sweet story and it was a perfect way to reintroduce these characters to people who have loved them for decades, as well as younger generations who may not have heard of them before. But like the way the simplicity The Muppet Movie of 1979 lead into the balls out wackiness of Muppets Take Manhattan, I’m glad that Muppets Most Wanted went bigger, sillier and broader than its 2011 predecessor.
It also lead to the only small problem I had with Muppets Most Wanted. I get that self-awareness is a big part of movies these days. Things like 22 Jump Street wouldn’t be as good if they didn’t wink at the camera every now and again to let us know they’re in on the joke. But those winks just come a little too thick and fast in Muppets Most Wanted. From the opening song, We’re Making a Sequel, to the closing credits, it never lets us forget for a second that not only are we watching a movie, but that film makers know that we know that we’re watching a movie. It’s a movie about puppets who live in the real world, consider my disbelief already suspended. You don’t have to keep reminding me.
But that really is a small, small problem deeply buried beneath a whole of stuff I really, really liked. The current version of the Muppets might be the only remake, redo, reboot of my lifetime where I’m totally OK with new generations discovering it via this new iteration, instead of feeling like they’ve missed out by not seeing the version of my childhood. I still really hope kids today somehow see the old Muppet Show, but even if they don’t, I don’t think they’ve been short changed by these new versions.