Every time a Muppet movie comes out, I cringe. I know that's a really weird thing for the (self-proclaimed) biggest Muppet fan you'll ever meet to say but it's true. The reason why is because I feel like so much is riding on it to be a huge success. In case you didn't know, The Muppets were once one of the biggest cultural icons with a primetime TV show and movies that came our regularly and were critical and financial successes. But after Muppet creator Jim Henson tragically died in 1990 shortly after he sold the franchise to Disney, the quality went down and so the success followed. It wasn't until, of all people, Jason Segel and writer/director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshal, Get Him to the Greek) sold Disney on letting them take a shot at redemption. They succeeded but ever since then, I feel like The Muppets have been on thin ice.
I got really nervous when I started to see ads and trailers come out for Muppets Most Wanted, the sequel (although it's the 7th Muppet film) to Segel's masterpiece. The reason why was because I wasn't seeing anything funny or clever. I saw a Kermit look-a-like with a mole and his pinkie in his mouth like Dr. Evil which wouldn't have even been funny when Austin Powers jokes were still funny. The good news is that that character, named Constantine, doesn't do that in the film but more importantly, the film is really, really funny.
The movie starts literally seconds after the last one ends with a really clever musical number about how sequels aren't as good as the originals. It's brilliant and catchy which is exactly what one should expect from The Muppets. After that, the story involves a world tour after their new success which is actually a ploy for a jewel heist, plotted by Constantine and Dominic Badguy, played fearlessly by Ricky Gervais. The two other human leads are Ty Burrell (ABC's Modern Family, Mr. Peabody and Sherman) and Tina Fey. Both are capable of being funnier but mostly still have moments of comedy gold. The real laughs from humans comes from any of the countless celebrity cameos that spans all the way from Ray Liotta to Lady Gaga to Celine Dion.
What made me enjoy 2011's The Muppets so amazingly was that it was not only really funny but a self aware reflection of lost fame. It also had solid signals it sent out to hardcore Muppet fans like me who got choked up seeing pictures of Jim Henson and hearing the whole cast sing "Rainbow Connection" again. None of that is in Muppets Most Wanted and I'm okay with that. We don't need the sentiment because Muppet fans were won over with the last one and now they just simply focus on being the funniest movie they could make. They succeed.
Director James Bobin (HBO's Flight of the Conchords, Da Ali G Show) is a comedic genius and he kills it once again. He navigates us through Muppets Most Wanted with jokes that kids will mostly get but whispers and sight gags that adults will absolutely die from laughing. And if you're a Muppet elitist like me, there are still moments where you'll have to wipe away a tear or two but this time it's from laughing too hard at inside Muppet jokes. It makes me so happy to know that the characters that introduced me (and most comedians under the age of 45) to comedy are in the hands of Bobin and Stoller; two guys who have earned my trust. They respect them as much as I do and have the chops to give them the rebirth they so earnestly deserve. Thanks for playing the music and lighting the lights, guys!
Listen to Gavin's exclusive interview with the star of "Muppet's Most Wanted", Miss Piggy:
Gavin also got to interview Kermit the Frog, back in 2011, before the release of the last "Muppets" movie: