Maybe not everyone gets them, but for some of us, the Muppets are most wanted indeed. Now entering their sixth decade of cultural relevance, The Muppets themselves have always been old school; even in the 70’s, their routines recalled music hall or vaudeville theatre. So it’s right that this new 2014 version still harks back to ancient routines; Kermit the frog and his Russian lookalike Constantine have a routine involving a mirror that was popular long before cinema was invented.
The original Muppet Movie reboot focused not on the Muppets themselves, but on human main characters in the form of Amy Adams and Jason Segal; that’s corrected in this 2014 James Bobin sequel, which opens with a cheerful song about how sequels are never as good as the original film. Instead, the focus is Kermit, who is seduced by Dominic Badguy (an ill-at-ease Ricky Gervais) into a European tour which is merely the cover for an series of robberies, leading to a hidden treasure.
Kermit is mistaken for Russian crime-boss Constantine (also Kermit), who takes over at the helm while Kermit languishes in a Gulag run by Tina Fey. Appearing in a Muppet Movie has considerable cultural cache even if you’ve already made it, as Lady Gaga and the late Tony Bennett can attest, and cameos from Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, Tom Hiddlestone, James McAvoy and many more add to the jokey feel.
While not the best Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted is amiable enough to be going on with even if it doesn’t resolve the perennial problem of what do do with the Muppets themselves; it’s an IP to die for, with ageless creations who never get involved in off-screen scandals. But Muppets Most Wanted does better than most by focusing on the interaction between muppets and celebrities; a quick look back at the famous chemistry they generated with Michael Caine on Christmas Carol or Billy Connolly on Muppet Treasure Island is a reminder that the concept doesn’t have to be complicated when the charm can be so simple.