I, like many of my peers, hold a certain fondness for the media we consumed when we were kids. Nostalgia goggles or not, I often feel like the media targeted towards the younger audiences these days can’t hold a candle to shows like Hey Arnold! or Ghostwriter. Because of this, I was especially excited a couple years ago when my favorite puppets, the Muppets, received a reboot courtesy of the folks at Disney.
However, for all my love of The Muppet Show and Muppet Babies, I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to see the first film in the revitalized franchise: The Muppets. Ever since the second film, Muppets Most Wanted, premiered, I vowed not to make the same mistake. To my good fortune, this was one vow that I actually fulfilled.
Muppets Most Wanted takes place directly after The Muppets—if you were worried about being lost because of that, I’m here to reassure you that you need to know absolutely nothing about the previous movie to enjoy this one. Since the rambunctious gang of puppets is back together again, they all decide to go on a world tour. It’s only logical, right? Before they can head off, it seems the Muppets have caught the attention of premier tour manager, Dominic Badguy (pronounced bad-gee), who offers to take them under his lucrative wing. Kermit is apprehensive about it, but everyone else is so thrilled that he goes along with Badguy’s offer. At the same time, in Siberia, one of the most heinous criminals of all time has escaped the threatening prison known only as the Gulag. This criminal is none other than Constantine, a thief whose main goal is stealing the crown jewels of London and… apparently blowing up everything he touches. After seeing Kermit’s success, Constantine knows what he must do: he must become Kermit. “How is this possible?” you may ask. Well, it just so happens that Constantine looks exactly like Kermit, except with a mole.
As the Muppets make their first stop in Germany, the tensions between Kermit’s strict rules and the other Muppets’ desires to add increasingly unbelievable acts to their show causes a rift between the two—this only creates a chance for Badguy, who is more than happy to give the other Muppets anything they want, to take the amphibian’s place. Disgruntled, Kermit goes for a walk, but is ambushed by Constantine (who slaps a fake mole on Kermit’s face) and is subsequently arrested and taken back to the Gulag.
With his plan in action, Constantine and his partner, Badguy (who would have guessed, right?), set off to steal a very specific treasure in the museum adjacent to where the Muppets are preforming. This is the MO for the rest of the world tour: every venue Badguy books is next to a museum that houses something Constantine wants to steal. However, it’s incredibly obvious that Constantine is not Kermit, even without the exaggerated Russian accent. For a while, the froggy mastermind struggles with how to deal with this, eventually coming to the conclusion that if he lets everyone do what they want, they’ll be happy and leave him alone. As brilliant as it is stupid, the plan works and no one is the wiser except for Animal and Walter (the newest Muppet).
Back at the Gulag, Kermit is quickly ousted as “not Constantine” and repeatedly threatened by the guard Nadya that he’ll be there forever. He tries to argue that his friends are coming to break him out, but Kermit’s belief in that wanes quickly. Instead, he puts his emotions into planning the Gulag’s talent show—mostly because if he doesn’t Nadya will freeze him to the wall (which is exactly what it sounds like).
Becoming increasingly more suspicious, Walter convinces Fozzy that something isn’t right with “Kermit”. After an investigation of their boss’s cabin, their fears are proven true when Constantine attacks them. Even though Fozzy and Walter are saved by Animal, the three of them are forced to escape on a train, thus separating them from the other Muppets (who have no idea that the three of them were attacked or that their ‘Kermit’ is actually a criminal mastermind). At that moment, they decide to go save Kermit. By equal parts luck and wit, they manage to bring Kermit back in time to stop Constantine; not stopping him from stealing the jewels, but stopping him from marrying a bamboozled Miss Piggy. In the end, Constantine and Badguy are put behind bars, the whole Muppets crew reaffirms their friendship, and everyone gets stuck to the Gulag wall.
I might be completely biased, but I loved this movie. A lot of the jokes were very well thought out, and I appreciated the nods to the audience that knew the older version of the Muppet crew. The score was excellent and the lesson—sometimes people saying “no” is because they care, and not because they want to disappoint you—is incredibly important, especially to a younger audience. This, of course, doesn’t mean the film was without fault.
My main gripe with this movie stems from the representation of the female characters. I don’t have much to look at here since there are only four female characters—three muppets and one human—and out of those, only two have substantial speaking parts. Looking at both Tina Fey’s character, Nadya, and Miss Piggy, every woman is depicted as being obsessed with love. Rather, obsessed with Kermit. I rather enjoyed Nadya as a character: she’s strong, a clear foil to Kermit, and a stage hog to a comical degree. With these traits, she was already a perfectly rounded comedic character who served a purpose in the plot’s conflict. Unfortunately, the film reveals that the main reason she won’t let Kermit go free, even after she realizes he’s not Constantine, is not because he’s working on the talent show, but because she’s obsessively in love with him. What? This reveal is kind of funny, but mostly because you’re wondering why they’re giving Miss Piggy a rival and why this came out of nowhere. After this scene, the movie barely mentions it again, which is probably a good thing as there’s nothing to play off of (Kermit doesn’t care, and Nadya never meets with Miss Piggy, thank god). Instead, we’re left with some confusion over why Nadya would have such feelings for Kermit and such a blow to her agency. Because why would a woman be hopelessly devoted to her love of Broadway and musical acts when she can be devoted to a man? Er… frog.
I was also kind of put out to realize
that Miss Piggy was toned down for this film. I don’t know if marketing thought twice about her karate chopping ways, but she was lacking a certain power that I’m used to. Rather than asserting her views in her typical violent way, she seems to just hang in the background until she’s needed to move the plot. Kind of a waste of character. It also seems strange to me that she wouldn’t be one of the first ones to notice that the Kermit hanging around the Muppets during their tour wasn’t actually Kermit. If she did, that would mean the climatic wedding scene wouldn’t have happened, but it doesn’t really make sense to me that someone who has spent so much time around the frog wouldn’t notice the change in demeanor or accent. It would have been cool if she had snuck into the Gulag all Mission Impossible style to rescue Kermit. But now that I bring it up, if that happened we probably would have gotten some unnecessary love triangle bullshit with Nadya. Ugh. If Disney is trying to tame Miss Piggy, I’d rather them not: despite being love-crazed, she really is a well-rounded female character who knows what she wants and doesn’t let anyone stop her until she gets it. We shouldn’t be downplaying these characteristics, especially when they can be put to such good use.
Outside of this, if you’re not a fan of accents and jokes about the French, you might not have as good a time as other people. However, I really do recommend this movie. As a comedy film for children and adults, it succeeds without making its comedy cruel or hurtful. As a deep narrative, maybe it doesn’t succeed as much, but it’s still an enjoyable ride. Mostly, I just want to see support for this film so there will be another one. The Muppets already went away once; now that they’re back, I don’t want to say goodbye so early in their revival. Most Wanted may have not given me everything I wanted, but I’m still ready to come back for more, and I hope everyone else is too.
Thanks for this review, I’ve been wondering about this one.
This is a great, balanced and thoughtful review. I still don’t know if I want to see this (or at least, spend money on a theater ticket) but I still enjoyed this read!
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