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Muppets Most Wanted
The world is a better place because of The Muppets. These characters are ones that bring smiles, joy, and wonderment to the world through these imaginative, fun, and energetic characters. For a while it seemed as though the series and the wonderful characters that make it so awesome were going to disappear off the charts as it had been so many years since anything had been done with the series. Then 2011's The Muppets happened, with actor/writer Jason Segel convincing Disney to kick-start a new wave of Muppeteering with a new film. These beloved characters were never meant to be left forgotten and this is something Segel knew all too well. Alongside collaborator James Bobin (head director of HBO's fantastic musical comedy series Flight of the Conchords), The Muppets were born... again!
Due to the huge success of The Muppets (2011), Disney hired director Bobin to once again help bring the characters to life for another new adventure. Alongside Segel's frequent collaborator Nicholas Stoller (director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Five Year Engagement), the team brought together most of the same collaborators who worked to make the previous film entry. However, Segel was not to return for the sequel (having stated that he felt his work as accomplished with the 2011 film, and also reportedly due to scheduling conflicts). Writing Muppets Most Wanted together, Bobin and Stoller crafted a comedic and heartfelt tale that is a caper throwback to 60's films and previous Muppet entries like The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and other genre pics from the time-period.
Plot-wise, Muppets Most Wanted takes place directly after the ending to The Muppets (2011). Following the successful program that raised enough funds to save them from losing it all, the characters are left wondering what it is they can do next. A magnificent musical number begins (in which the characters draw comparisons to many classic films and joke about the difficulties found in making a good film sequel), and the film is on it's way. It isn't long before Kermit and the rest are approached by Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who suggests to them that a world tour would be the best way for the Muppets to continue on following their successful program. Persuaded by the rest of the group, Kermit agrees and a large world tour begins to take place. Before long, Kermit begins to worry about finances and if they can afford to have the tour. Dominic "somehow" comes up with enough funds for them to perform right next to many museum's hosting jewels and rare items. Dominic, as it turns out, lives up to his last name 'badguy' by helping the world's "greatest" criminal Constantine (a frog who appears almost exactly the same as Kermit the Frog - save for one cheek mole) and a plot is schemed where Constantine switches places with Kermit. Kermit ends up being found and confused for the bad-doer Constantine and ends up in a Russian Gulag 38B cell. Will The Muppets be able to figure it out before it's too late to save Kermit and stop Dominic Badguy and Constantine from their jewel quests too?
Kermit becomes a sensation inside of the Gulag and is adored and admired by the high ranking prison guard Nadya (Tina Fey), who discovers that he is Kermit the Frog and has a huge crush, wanting Kermit to help them practice music and dance numbers in the Gulag for an upcoming song and dance show. Meanwhile, Constantine does a bad Kermit impression and tries to steal the jewels while performing with the others Muppets for 'The Muppet Show' (which is currently putting audiences to sleep in spades with a four plus hour running time and long slow-jazz music numbers). A brilliant (if undeniably kooky) inspector named Jean Pierre Napoleon (performed by Ty Burrell of Modern Family) works with Interpol to try and find Constantine and becomes entwined in figuring out the mystery behind the rare jewels and items disappearing from the successful museums. Joining Napoleon on the quest is Sam Eagle, and together they form a dynamic team.
And, of course, along the journey there are many wonderful moments with the beloved Muppet characters like Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Beaker, Animal, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, The Swedish Chef, and countless other characters from the Henson world of The Muppets. These delightful puppet characters are at the heart of everything that makes these films and stories meaningful and important to so many lives. Part of the joy of partaking in any Muppet film becomes about these characters and the experience of spending more time with them. Even though not all of the Muppet films have been equally great throughout the years, the film's manage to all be entertaining and worth seeing because the main attraction has always been spending time with Muppets.
Muppet's Most Wanted does a terrific job of introducing the new human characters into the storyline. Ricky Gervais surprises with his family-friend performance (where it's clear he's having the time of his life), Ty Burrell continues to impress with the same quality of smart comedic chops he's perfected through Modern Family, and Tina Fey remains amongst the funniest and smartest comedians in the business and impresses with her Kermit-obsessed character (and thus delivering one of the best comedic performances in her career yet).
Production elements in Muppets Most Wanted are fantastic. The film has so many core sequences that take place around the world and with strong blue screen effects work. It astonishingly comes together as one zippy-fast energetic film utilizing 425 effects that seamlessly blend into the overall production. The sets, costumes, cinematography (that beautifully realized color-scheme is a showstopper from Don Burgess) and other great production elements are well utilized here and are sing-worthy (praiseworthy)!
The film is also highlighted beautifully with music that notches up the toe-tapping spirit and energetic fun tenfold with some of the best songs ever crafted in Muppet history. Songwriter (and sometimes Muppet performer) Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords fame) is the lyricist making so many creative and fun lines with each song.
The six new pieces done for Muppets Most Wanted are terrific (matching the quality of songs featured in the 2011 Muppets film), with some of the standout numbers being the brilliant opening Muppets.. Again! and "I'll Get You What You Want" both making a big impression. McKenzie makes the songs so much fun and memorable that it's clear how much the musical aspect of the film makes the experience all the more special. The music is one of the best and most essential parts of the film.
Director James Bobin knows exactly how to complement these songs. Having worked with the talented McKenzie before on Flight of the Conchords, the pair's reunion on these films is a real treat and show's these artists great understanding of each other's artistic contributions. Bobin is visually remarkable and comes up with some splendid camera shots and makes the best out of the great set-pieces, costumes, and artistic style. Everything seems to work so well and excel through this pitch-perfect direction. Luckily, Bobin is also a genuinely great director when orchestrating comedy. One of the most important key ingredients to any Muppets film is a wonderful dosage of comedy that can bring smiles and laughter to the whole family. Bobin manages to accomplish this in spades while also retaining a distinctive and off-beat comedy styling that makes the comedy have a distinctive quality that shares heart and soul in spades.
The heart and soul of the film is about the way the characters manage to bring a sense of togetherness and unity to the Muppets and how this unity brings joy to all those around. Throughout the film, Kermit manages to be a core reminder as to why The Muppets are generously wonderful creations for the world: the optimism, the kindness, the laughter: everything combines to form a strong impression that both children and adults can feel completely enamored by. Muppets Most Wanted is an easy contender as one of the best productions of the entire year. This is a film that is full of magic and it sits alongside The Muppets magnificently and is not to be missed.
Muppets Most Wanted is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1.85:1 aspect ratio high definition (HD) presentation. The transfer is one of the best looking ones released this year with great color that seems to 'pop' off the screen. It's almost like the fun phrasing of seeing the rainbow has been achieved in Muppet-verse with fun colors dashing across the screen in a beautiful way. A lot of this colorful magic is because of the excellent cinematography from Don Burgess. Definition and clarity are strong throughout and a fine modern production aesthetic helps to make everything look splendid from beginning to end.
The audio presentation delivered for Muppets Most Wanted is 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. While it's perhaps a notch below The Muppets (which had a full DTS-HD MA sound presentation) this is still an excellent sounding presentation overall, which utilizes a high (if constant) bit-rate instead of a variable one. This technically qualifies as a lossy (not lossless) audio mix presentation, but most listeners will have a blast with the generally quite proficient and pleasing soundstage. The music songs by Bret McKenzie and the score by Christophe Beck blend well together throughout the film and are impressively realized. Listener's will still have a Muppet-good time.
The supplements included on this release might not be as large as on some releases, but each is interesting and worthwhile. The best 'extra' is the inclusion of an all new cut of the film (which Disney has promoted as 'the unnecessarily extended edition'). This extended version runs about 13 minutes longer than the theatrical version (also included) and reminds one of a director's cut experience. For those who don't know, James Bobin originally wanted a longer version for the 2011 Muppets film but Disney wanted a shorter run-rime so some edits had to be made. This edition's extended edition seems to exist because of this and should be a thrill for any huge Muppet fan.
As a mini-comedic bit, the Blu-ray release also includes the 'Statler and Waldorf Cut' (which, without spoiling anything for first-time viewers, most can guess what this would be based on these characters).
Rounding out the disc is: The Longer Longest Blooper Reel in the Muppets History, a lengthy reel showcasing a lot of outtakes (particularly extensive shots that didn't work because of big laughing outbursts from a gleeful Ricky Gervais), Rizzo's Biggest Fan, a comedic piece that showcases the beloved character (around since The Muppet Show but who is hardly seen in Muppets Most Wanted) writing a letter to the director as Rizzo's "biggest fan" around.
Lastly, the "I'll Get You What You Want" Music Video performed by Bret McKenzie is included. This comedic video blends footage from the film's scene using this song with enthusiastic over-the-top singing and performance from musician McKenzie in the style perfected with Flight of the Conchords.
Muppets Most Wanted is (as it turns out) one of the best films in the entire Muppet canon. Managing to avoid the pitfalls many film sequels encounter, the effort amazes with great comedy, characters, adventure, and fun for the whole family to enjoy.
This is a treasure continuing to bring to light the joy of the Muppets. For fans of the first film, this is a magnificent must-see experience. Filled to the brim with an enormous amount of great cameo appearances and featuring fun direction and music, Muppets Most Wanted is a must-see family film and one of the best releases of the year (... for the lovers, the dreamers, and me). It's filmmaking magic at its best and that is something that shouldn't be missed.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.