Alright, here is what I believe to be my last film review for a while. After the release of The Muppets the entire world became mad for the Muppets! Because of this, the Muppets continued doing more things. They were featured in a number of productions, appearing in online videos and music videos. One of those videos includes the incredible CeeLo Green Christmas video, All I Need is Love (Marc Klasfeld, 2012). IT WAS AWESOME! The Fraggles even appeared in a Ben Folds music video, Do It Anyway (Phil Hodges, 2012). IT WAS AWESOME! The Muppets also made a Christmas TV special with Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga and the Muppets’ Holiday Spectacular (Gregg Gelfand, 2013). It…was not anything spectacular (although, I do love the scene where Piggy sings “Santa Baby”). The Muppets also appeared in commercials advertising Lipton Tea, Subway, and Toyota. (Watch the commercial they made with Terry Crews – it is too wonderful!) With all of this success, it made sense not only to have the Muppets appear in mainstream media more, but to also make more productions focused on them. What does that mean? MORE MOVIES!!! Enter Muppets Most Wanted (James Bobin, 2014)!!! Made by almost all the people who made the last movie (director, writers, producers, composer, song writer, etc.) and released almost 35 years after The Muppet Movie, this is a direct sequel to the last Muppet movie. This is a very unique kind of Muppet movie for that exact reason. Muppet movies have never been connected to one another, which was one of the fun things about them. They could do whatever they wanted. Here, there is a connection to the last movie they made. That’s not a bad thing, though. In fact, there aren’t that many connections to the last movie. The filmmakers could have reworked this and made it another stand alone Muppet movie. But the connections are clever enough that they actually do work for the movie. But let’s stop wasting time and just get into the review.
STORY AND THEMES & MESSAGES: As a lot of people have already stated, the story of this film is very clever and funny. A Russian Kermit look-alike named Constantine is the world’s number criminal, most dangerous frog, and an expert with explosives. He escapes a Russian gulag in order to pull off the greatest criminal stunt in the world: stealing the Crown Jewels of England. In order to do this, his right-hand man, Dominic Badguy (played by Ricky Gervais), convinces the Muppets to go on a world tour (which isn’t really much of a WORLD tour, seeing as how the only continent they travel is Europe). Dominic and Constantine sets Kermit up to be taken away to the gulag in Constantine’s place, and the two criminals are now controlling the tour. They perform in the cities that will get them closer to Crown Jewels. However, they’re being followed by Sam the Eagle and French investigator Jean Pierre Napoleon (played by Ty Burrell) because they believe the Muppets have something to do with the robberies all over the country. While this is happening, Kermit is being held in prison against his will by Russian prison guard Nadya (played by Tina Fey).
This is a really clever idea! I love that there are, in a sense, 2 Kermits who are absolutely nothing like each other! We’ll address that more when we talk about the comedy, but watching Constantine trying to convince everyone around him that he’s Kermit is more than entertaining. It’s much more believable then Kermit and Fozzie being twins for no reason!
I do agree that maybe there’s a little too much focus on the villains’ plan. On one hand, I do like Constantine! I love it anytime he’s on the screen, and I’ll take as much as I can get! However, if we are supposed to be rooting for our main heroes then we should have more time with them. I think that all the time we spent with Constantine and Dominic could have been given to the others. Let’s see more of Piggy’s feelings about what’s going on. How conflicted is Walter? How distressed is Kermit? It’s hard to say what exactly will do the trick to fix this because I do know all of these characters, I know what their intentions are, and I know how they feel. All I’m saying is that we don’t spend as much time with our heroes as we do with our antagonists, thus it makes it tricky to entirely feel the weight of what they’re going through and truly sympathize and root for them.
I hear that there’s a lot of stereotyping in this film. I don’t know a lot about European stereotypes, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see that in some places. Why the crud are there leprechauns in the theater in Ireland? How come Napoleon takes frequent long breaks and vacations? How come all of his possessions are so small? I am strongly against stereotyping, but…this didn’t bother me at all…Well, the leprechauns kind of bothered me, but I was fine with everything else. Nothing else was really offensive to me. Most of the time, I see stereotypes in films as offensive because the jokes were too mean-spirited. Maybe those filmmakers actually thought people in a certain demographic behave a certain way or talk a certain way. Perhaps the filmmakers are probably just exploiting the mess out of those stereotypes to cause audiences to have a specific perspective on different people and cultures. It could be that filmmakers are just trying to make a lazy and easy joke so that they don’t have to try and work as hard. But I didn’t get any of that here. I felt these jokes were lighthearted and innocent enough that everyone could laugh at them, even people in Europe. It’s like a person who teases everyone, including him or herself, but in good spirits. The jokes never become too mean, and thus everyone is able to have a good laugh. That being said, I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t be offended by any of these stereotypes. If something offended you in this film, you have every right to be offended – no one can stop you from feeling a certain way. Just know that there are much harsher ways to make these kinds of jokes; especially coming from Disney, this could have been a lot worse!
The major theme in this movie is sort of one of the themes from the last Muppet movie. Remember when Kermit told Piggy, “I need you?” Well, in this film, the rest of the Muppets realize that they need Kermit. They want Kermit in their lives. That may seem like a simple message, especially for adults, but I really like it. I like the idea that we need interaction and a close bond with other people. One of the most important things in life isn’t that we can do whatever we want – it’s the people that help make living worth wild. After the Muppets got everything they wanted but were beginning to lose some of the most important people around them – Fozzie, Animal, Walter, and Kermit – they realized they didn’t need those wild and crazy luxuries anymore. They wanted their friends, the special people in their lives. I think that’s an important message for people, especially in this day in age. I know folks have gone on and on about it, but some many people are closed off from reality and from people thanks to the increase in popularity of technology and the internet. Rather than investing in a relationship with other human beings, a lot of people spend much more time investing in internet videos, blog pages, cell phones, iPads, and the works. I think this is an important message for them, and a good reminder for the rest of us.
HUMAN STARS, NEW MUPPETS, & CAMEOS: I must say that I think this film probably has the best cast of live-action human stars out of all the other Muppet movies! None of these people are dull, forgettable, or boring! Let’s talk about them!
1) Dominic Badguy – What really makes Dominic work in this movie is Ricky Gervais’ ability to interact with all of the Muppets like they’re actual people! He never treats them like they’re just puppets. He’s never winking to the camera. He’s not like an adult talking down to a child. He is a well-functioning being talking to another well-functioning being. It’s so genuine and honest, you almost forget that the Muppets are puppets yourself. Gervais also dedicates so much passion and energy into this film. He totally gets sucked into the story and into his character. I don’t see Ricky Gervais, I see an intelligent criminal who works under a frog. He’s funny, he’s honest, he’s the bad guy, Dominic Badguy!
2) Jean Pierre Napoleon – This guy is hilarious! A lot of that is, obviously, due to the fact that it’s Ty Burrell in the role! Another reason he works so well is because he’s sized up so perfectly with Same the Eagle! Sam is so stereotypically American while Jean is so stereotypically French! It’s so funny! His accent is funny, his dialogue is funny, his actions are funny. He’s so close to being a live-action Muppet himself, in fact! That’s really the best way I can describe this character, he is almost a live-action Muppet! If you mix Ty Burrell’s Jean Pierre Napoleon with Tim Curry’s Long John Silver from Muppet Treasure Island, you’d either have the perfect or too much of a live-action Muppet on your hands! I love Jean!
3) Nadya – Nadya is also a lot of fun! She’s more reserved than the other two live-action human stars. For the most part, she’s calm, rational, and sane. What I like about this character is that she’s not always over-the-top. She definitely has moments when she is, but she’s very reserved throughout much of the film. However, when she does go over-the-top, she is really funny. I love her trying to sing along with the inmates during the auditions for the review show. I love her affection for Kermit. I love her throwing up her arms in the air as she looks straight up and shouts “Kermit!” All of that is so funny and so good! It shows the different sides of her character, and it’s more than entertaining. Of course, Tina Fey is a great comedic actress already, so what did you expect?
4) Prison King, Danny Trejo, and Big Papa – Jemaine Clement, Danny Trejo, and Ray Liotta star in this movie as Gulag 38B inmates! I know a lot of people consider these actors cameo stars in the film, but they’re in the film so much that I have to consider them cast members. Their characters are very funny, but what makes them even funnier is if you know the actors themselves. Danny Trejo, Machete! – is singing and dancing in this number! Ray Liotta was trying to take out Denzel Washington in John Q (Nick Cassavetes, 2002), and now he’s auditioning for Kermit the Frog! Jemaine Clement…OK, I don’t know who he is; but that’s OK because his character is still funny. Anything with these guys and the other Gulag 38B inmates is fantastic! I love them all so much!
Alright, let’s get to the new Muppet introduced in this film, Constantine! I FRICKIN’ LOVE CONSTANTINE!!! He is amazing! He is one of the funniest Muppets created since Jim Henson’s days! Most of my favorite moments in the film include him! I love how diabolical and smart he is! I love it when he sings! I love all of the funny things he says and does! I know I said one of the problems with the story is that it doesn’t focus on the heroes as much as the villain, but Constantine is so likeable and entertaining that I don’t regret spending all of that time with him! He’s wonderful! Since the Muppets are making more productions and they’re releasing a new TV show next month, I hope that means I get to see a lot more of this guy!
Like the last film, there are a slew of cameo guest stars in this movie; it’s a “who’s who” game with the audience! Zach Galifianakis is back to reprise his role as Hobo Joe. We’ve also got Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Hugh Bonneville and Tom Hollander, Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Rob Corddry, Salma Hayek, Tom Hiddleston, Frank Langella, Bridgit Mendler, Debby Ryan, Ross Lynch, James McAvoy, Chloe Grace Moretz, Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl, Usher Raymond, Miranda Richardson, Saoirse Ronan, Til Schweiger, Russell Tovey, and Christoph Waltz. In deleted scenes, or the extended version on the Blu-ray, you can see Tyrel Jackson Williams, Debby Ryan, Peter Serafinowicz, Dexter Flecther, and Jake Short. Again, I don’t know much about any of these stars, so my favorite will depend solely on their role in the film. I love Josh Groban’s reveal at the end of the movie – I love how he spent the entire film locked in a sweatbox! I love Celine Dion’s appearance as Piggy’s fairy godmother! The two of them singing this silly song together is amazing! must say, though, I think my favorite cameo is Stanley Tucci as Ivan. I ADORE that joke centered around his appearance! It is so hilarious, and I always look forward to that moment whenever I watch this movie!
SONGS/MUSIC: Christophe Beck and Bret McKenzie are back to bring us some more great music! The score can be whimsical, dramatic, and soothing. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Beck’s score, though! McKenzie goes all out to bring us some more amazing songs that add to the hilarity of the film! I need to say now that these songs will be judged solely on how entertaining they are. With a movie like this, it’s hard and pointless to say whether or not they continue the story or give us character development. They can, but these songs are here merely to entertain us. With that said, let’s take a look at these songs!
1) We’re Doing a Sequel: This is a great opening to a Muppet movie! It reminds me a lot of “Hey A Movie!” from The Great Muppet Caper. The song basically allows us to sit back and have a great time. The melody is so fun and memorable; I can’t help but dance every time I hear it! I love all of the jokes and references in this number. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew even mentions that “this is the seventh sequel to [their] original motion picture” – that is both true and funny! It’s enjoyable, it’s memorable, it’s funny, and it’s a grand opening! I love this song
(This is the best version I could get.)
2) I’m Number One: This is another enjoyable number. Again, the tune is fun, memorable, and danceable. As I mentioned already, I love Constantine, so the thought of him singing is incredible to me! He shows that he’s not just diabolical, but he is also a talented entertainer. He can dance, he can sing; maybe if he wasn’t being a criminal master mind, he could have created his own touring concert. I actually do feel sorry for Dominic during this number. He has to answer to a frog! Man, what is his life anymore? I must thank this song, though, for giving me the awesome phrase, “Dance, monkey, dance!” That is so hilarious! Just walk up to your friends and family and say, “Dance, monkey, dance!” It’s hilarious!
3) The Big House: This song isn’t as memorable as most of the others, but it’s still entertaining enough. We have a singing Russian Tina Fey – how cool is that? This is an interesting choice of style for the song. Why did McKenzie choose to go this route? I don’t know, but it makes it fun. This song does remind me a little but of the “Happiness Hotel” number from the Great Caper film…Huh. I knew the filmmakers were inspired by that film, but I didn’t know they’d try to redo EVERYTHING. Well, anyway, this song is pretty enjoyable. It’s a toe-tapper, it’s funny, and it makes me want to be sent to a Russian gulag as well. So long as Tina Fey is the warden and Clement, Trejo, and Liotta are my backup singers and dancers, I’m good!
(This is the best version I could get.)
4) I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu): This song is…strange. Don’t get me wrong – it’s funny, entertaining, and memorable like the other songs, too. But…it’s so weird. In this scene, Constantine, posing as Kermit, goes to talk Piggy and tells her that he can give her whatever she wants. He then spins around, is wearing a 1970’s disco suit, and…starts this song. It just comes the butt out of nowhere and has almost nothing to do with anything. But it’s so funny! A fan is blowing on Constantine, he wipes vasoline on the camera lens, he gives Piggy a thingy-thing…OK…It’s so odd…but so funny! It’s not my favorite song in the film, but it’s still an entertaining number!
5) Interrogation Song: When I first heard this number, I immediately fell in love with it! This is one of the best songs in the film! True, there’s no real melody for the characters to sing, but we don’t need one here. Ty Burrell and the Muppets do a great job speaking rhymes in rhythm. It’s hard to say what exactly makes this song work. Maybe it’s seeing how each Muppet respond to the accusations in character. Maybe it’s Sam the Eagle and Burrell’s character accusing the Muppets. Perhaps it’s just watching the two of them acting off of each other. It could be seeing Burrell in a musical number. Possibly it’s the music that accompanies the song. Maybe it’s all of those elements. I don’t know, but this song is great! I look forward to hearing it anytime the movie is on!
6) Something So Right: YEEEESSSSSSS!!!!! I LOVE this song! THIS is my favorite song in the movie! It sounds so sweet and soulful! This does sound like an R&B duet, and it’s so fantastic! I love the incredible lead vocals of Piggy and Celine Dion! I love it when the other Muppets join in and sing as well! Their voices – particularly Dr. Teeth, Floyd, and Rowlf – really contribute to the style of the song. I love that this musical number is shot like a music video; it’s so much fun! Why wasn’t this song nominated for an Oscar? If “Man or Muppet” was nominated and won, why couldn’t this song? I don’t know, but it ticks me off! This song is wonderful, and it always makes me smile!
7) Together Again: I wanted to address this song because it is an original Muppet song. You may remember that this song, written by the late and the great Jeff Moss, was first played in The Muppets Take Manhattan in 1984. It’s always nice to hear a classic Muppet song in a new Muppet film. It’s done really well here. We hear all the Muppets singing this number, and we see all the cameo stars singing it as well. I guess it makes sense to have this song in the film, seeing as how Kermit was apart from the Muppets for much of the movie and now they’re all together again. But do you remember when it Bobo and Uncle Deadly sung this song a bit and Walter played it on the piano in the last film? Hmm…Disney is really trying to get this song that Sony owns, aren’t they…Sony does own the rights to the song, right, seeing as how they own the rights to the film? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s a joy to hear it at the end of this film. It’s great and nostalgic!
PUPPETRY: In this section, I’ll be addressing all of the special effects. Let’s start with the traditional art of puppetry. These films keep trying to improve what they can do with these characters more and more. We constantly see a lot of head to toe on these characters. This film might contain the most number of full-bodied Muppet scenes out of all the other movies…Maybe. We even see a full Kermit walking on a table during the “Big House” number! It looked so real and natural, like he was walking effortlessly! Whenever we get any head to toe on a character, it looks natural! It doesn’t look like a radio controlled Muppet or anything like that. The characters just move naturally, like they are really alive! That’s no easy feat, and I think it’s pretty awesome! One of the main feats that impressed me was Constantine’s thumb. Throughout the film he’s always pressing a detonator, and his thumb really moves on it! Even during the scene where he’s watching a tape of Kermit, his thumb is pressing down on the remote! How did they do that?!? That is so cool! I’ll also say that Matt Vogel did a great job making Constantine look different than Kermit. Of course Constantine was built to look angrier and a bit different from Kermit, but Vogel added a lot of weight to his walk and movements as well. Whereas Kermit’s walk is much lighter and smoother, Constantine is heavier, almost as if he’s stomping to get to where he has to go. I also love his facial expressions. Constantine sort of has a permanent frown on his face. Even when he’s smiling, laughing, or just talking to someone, you can still see that frown that never leaves. It’s kind of funny!
The blue screen effect does not work to the film’s advantage. I’m always aware when the characters are standing in front of it because nothing in the background looks natural. The main place this becomes obvious is near the end of the film when all of the action takes place on the roof of the Tower of London. Nothing in the background looks real. On one hand, I guess it made sense to shoot that scene in front of blue screen since the Muppets had to stand on top of each other. But…couldn’t they have just worn blue suits? A scene that long shouldn’t be shot in blue screen because we not only recognize the effect, but it’s also distracting from everything else going on.
Finally, I’m not a fan of the CG used in this film. Maybe I’d feel better about it if it looked better, but it doesn’t look great. It’s pretty bad. I can tell whenever someone is being transposed into CG, and, again, it’s really distracting. I remember Constantine fighting off the guards as he escaped the gulag, Constantine hoping around during “I’m Number One,” and all the Muppets and cameos stuck on the wall singing “Together Again.” It looks unnatural, and it takes me out of the moment. I will say this, though: I respect the fact that they combined the techniques of puppetry and CG instead of just using CG. I can still tell that Constantine is always being performed by a puppeteer, not computer animated. The reason for this is because James Bobin said that one of the great things about the Muppets is that they are really there. They’re real – you can touch them. Too many films today use CGI to animate the main characters, and that’s always distracting because we all know they aren’t there. But Bobin insisted on having the Muppet performers controlling the characters so that we could still feel our characters are there. On the one hand…those CG moments are distracting because I can obviously tell that the characters are composited to CG. On the other hand, though, I’m glad that he’s preserving the relationship we have with the Muppets by keeping them in the film and not replacing them with CG. And who’s to say why they used CG in the spots that they did? Perhaps it was absolutely necessary – I don’t know. I can say, though, that I think Bobin has a great respect and understanding of Jim Henson’s Muppets. Whenever they make their next film, I hope he gets called to direct it again!
COMEDY: When I heard a lot of people comparing this film to The Great Muppet Caper, I got really excited! As you may know from my other reviews and my Top 10 Favorite Muppet Productions list, that film is not only my favorite Muppet movie, but one of my favorite comedies ever! You can imagine that I was expecting a lot of great jokes and constant breaking of the fourth wall. And…I sort of got that. The film doesn’t break the fourth wall nearly as much here as the Great Caper did, and that’s where a lot of the comedy was. A lot of the comedy in the last film came from breaking the fourth wall as well! Whenever the Muppets do break the fourth wall, in this movie it’s really funny! In fact, my favorite joke in the film takes place when they address Walter joining the Muppets in their last movie! I wish they could have done it more, but that’s just what I wanted to see. Let’s dive deeper into the comedy that’s actually here.
A lot of the jokes come from references to other films. They parody movies like The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994), The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991), The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 1977), Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962), and others. These are some great classics and old capers for the film to satirize. The problem with that is these moments won’t be funny to people who haven’t seen these films. I haven’t seen any of these movies, so I couldn’t supply a laugh for these jokes. The Great Muppet Caper satirized some films as well, from what I’m told. But the comedy didn’t come from whether or not you understood any of those references. I don’t know a single movie that film parodied, and it’s still funny! That’s because the comedy came from the situations and the characters. If you took away the references, the film can still stand up on its own! Here, a lot of the jokes come from movie references, so they can be hit-and-miss with the audience.
That being said, however, the other jokes are really funny! A lot of that comes from the characters and the songs. As I said before, the human cast for this movie is unbelievable! I love them all, none of them are dull, and they invest so much into this film! All of the songs are funny and more than entertaining! The Muppets deliver, as they always do! I love every scene with Constantine! They make me laugh, and they make me laugh hard! At the end of his first scene, he emerges out of a swampy lake and says “It’s time to light the lights.” THAT IS SO AMAZING!!! The way he says it, the fact that he’s referencing The Muppet Show theme song, his accent – IT’S TOO GREAT! I also love what he says to Fozzie once he and Walter figured out his plan; he says “You have wockaed your last wocka, bear.” I CAN’T EVEN SPEAK ON HOW FUNNY THAT IS!!!…Huh. That’s the second “Wocka” joke a Muppet movie gave us…I can’t think of a joke that doesn’t work in this film. I know I haven’t seen the films they’re satirizing, but other people have. In fact, now that I know they were satirizing something, I can give a bit more of a laugh than I gave before. In my opinion, their best jokes are the fourth wall jokes, Constantine trying to impersonate Kermit, and any references to other Muppet productions.
I’ll end with this: if you haven’t seen the Extended Version of the film on Blu-Ray, get it! Not only does it answer some questions, but it also provides a lot more hilarious jokes! One involves the Muppets literally breaking the fourth wall. It’s so corny…but so funny! I love my DVD copy, but after picking up the Blu-Ray version from the library, I can definitely recommend that!
CONCLUSION: I really love this movie! Sure I could have used some more comedy, and I’m not crazy about the special effects they used. But I love everything else about it! The comedy we did get was really funny! The puppetry doesn’t disappoint at all! The songs are overwhelmingly fun (and should have been nominated for an Oscar)! The characters – Muppets and live-action humans – are absolutely entertaining and enjoyable! The story is engaging and creative! I wish this had been a bigger commercial success than it was, but let’s not act like it was a failure or a disappointment. Critics still enjoyed this film. Audiences enjoyed this film. It did make some money in the box office. It may not have lived up to the greatness of The Muppets, but I don’t think it was supposed to. For as great and wonderful as that film was, let’s not forget that it was the Muppets’ comeback, their revival. You can’t have a grand comeback twice within three years! This film just wanted to be a fun and loving Muppet film, and that’s exactly what it is! I love this film, and it now fits somewhere on my Top 10 Favorite Muppet Productions list…I don’t know, maybe it’s Number 7 or 8 (just don’t tell Constantine I said that). If you haven’t seen it yet, go to the store and buy it! If you’re a fan of the Muppets, you won’t regret it!
Let me end on this final note: I’m really glad I was able to review these film during the 60th anniversary of the Muppets! Yes, the Muppets have been around for 60 years now! Since 1955, they have been entertaining us, and I’m so glad that they are still e You all know about their new show coming out this month, don’t you? On Tuesday, September 22, The Muppets (Bob Kushell and Bill Prady, 2015) will air at 8:00 pm on ABC!!! It’s going to be great! Tune in and watch it – we’re in for a great show!…I’m doing a lot of free advertisement today…It’s the Muppets – I owe them! Thank you all for keeping up with these reviews! I’m sure I’ll post more later, but it’ll be a while. More poems will come out later. God bless you all, I love you, and HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY, MUPPETS!!!!!