Compare the poster for the newly released Muppets Most Wanted to the poster for 2011’s The Muppets and you may notice something telling: while similar in design, the former features Muppets front and center with the human characters in the rear, and the latter is the opposite. This is just one indicator that the focus of the movie is back where it should be in any Muppet vehicle: on the Muppets themselves.
While I thought the 2011 film was well done, funny and generally well intended, I felt that it focused too much on mourning the lost glory days of the Jim Henson era movies instead of simply attempting to recapture what made those films special. Don’t tell me these characters used to be great, show me they’re great today.
The new movie fixes effectively every issue I had with the last one, sometimes even overtly calling attention to it, as in one particularly meta-textual moment when Rizzo states “Didn’t we just do a whole movie about whether Walter would join the Muppets? We sure spent a lot of time on that, some would say to the exclusion of existing, beloved characters.”
Here’s the last line of my quasi-review on The Muppets:
My hope is that now that they’ve done the throat-clearing “let’s bring the old gang back” film, they’ll get the same crew to continue to make more movies this funny and well done while the iron’s still warmed up, and that they will be able to forge ahead with new, original stories rather than continue to look back with longing at days gone by.
I’m happy to report that they’ve done exactly that. James Bobin is back directing, with the academy-award winning Bret McKenzie once again providing the songs, and this time they are quick to send the gang off on an absurd, silly, fourth-wall-obliterating adventure that feels at home with the movies made while Jim Henson was still around.
The voices sound a little different, and the songs sound a little bit more like Flight of the Conchords than Paul Williams’ ballads, but these are our Muppets. There are nods to the past, particularly to The Great Muppet Caper, from which this film clearly draws inspiration, but here it feels like continuity rather than nostalgia, and looking back is never “the point.” And did I mention that it’s really funny?
Gee, it’s good to be together again.