Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Time to Play the Music . . .

OK, this is not going to be an unbiased review. I've loved the Muppets since they taught me how to count on Sesame Street lo those many years ago, and I'm pretty sure that a steady diet of The Muppet Show had something to do with my decision to pursue a backstage life throughout my early 20s. I relate a little too well to Kermit, who's always supposed to run the show, but is usually at the mercy of the asylum's inmates and spends a large amount of his time either sighing deeply or flinging his flippers in the air and screaming incoherently.

(Sorry, Jennifer Lawrence, I guess Kermit really is my spirit animal.)

In 2011, the Muppets were relaunched for a new generation.  I wasn't sure about this without the direct involvement of Frank Oz and Jim Henson (who sadly passed away in 1990) but my fears turned out to be unfounded. The sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, picks up quite literally at the end of the 2011 movie.

This is a caper movie - Kermit is supplanted by a lookalike frog who is a criminal mastermind. He promises the troupe their heart's desires, so they squash their suspicions that "Kermit" isn't acting quite like himself. Like all Muppets movies, much of the charm comes from guest spots and cameos - in addition to the trifecta of shine that is Ricky Gervais, Ty Burell, and Tina Fey, Most Wanted has walk-on roles for Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, and that's before the opening credits roll.  Look quick and you might spot Tom Hiddleston, Frank Langella, Salma Hayek, Josh Groban, Stanley Tucci, and dozens more, including a hilarious Danny Trejo who bills himself as a "triple threat.  I'm a singer, I'm a dancer, and I'm a murderer." (For the really deep cuts, click here.)

Is it a fantastic movie?  Probably not, but I was having too much fun to care. The Muppets are meta pop culture, which is my favorite dish. References to The Shawshank Redemption, A Chorus Line, Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal, Princess Beatrice's horrendous fascinator from the last royal wedding, and the legend of the ravens leaving the Tower of London are thrown in there, just for laughs from a few audience members.  There's plenty for the kids as well - I took my goddaughter to get that perspective (her dad, Victorian Marxist, came out to play as well). It's rated PG, although I'm not entirely sure why.

Indeed, it's time to play the music.  It's time to light the lights. Go buy your popcorn and relive your childhood.

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