A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Muppets Most Wanted is the star-studded sequel to 2011's musical comedy The Muppets; the tone is definitely light overall, but this one has a little more edge than its predecessor. Families with Muppets fans know to expect sight gags, physical comedy, and some light romance between Miss Piggy and Kermit (and in this case, his Doppelganger, Constantine). There's some playful ridiculing of the leisurely European lifestyle (six-hour lunches, three-week vacations, work days that end at 2 p.m.) and some grown-up-targeted prison humor and pop-culture references. Language is light but includes words like "butt" and "idiot." Since much of the movie takes place in a Russian prison, there are several scenes that feature armed guards holding large guns, as well as a couple of big sequences in which Constantine fights with people and sets off (or tries to) loud explosives -- but no one is shown getting hurt.
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What's the story?
Picking up where the last Muppets movie left off, Walter is now an official part of the crew, and the team -- led by Kermit (Steve Whitmire) -- realizes they have no clue what to do next. Enter slick talent agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who convinces the Muppets to embark on an international tour starting with Berlin, Germany. Unbeknownst to the Muppets, Badguy is in cahoots with the evil frog Constantine, the world's most wanted criminal, who escapes prison and switches identities with Kermit in Berlin. Mistaken for Constantine, Kermie is hauled off to the Gulag in Siberia, while his Doppelganger pretends to be the beloved Muppet. With Kermit in a notorious Russian prison, Constantine uses the Muppets' performances to cover for heists all across Europe. Meanwhile, an Interpol agent (Ty Burrell) and CIA Agent Sam Eagle (Eric Jacobson) work together to solve the mysterious high-profile robberies.
Is it any good?
As the musical number We're Doing a Sequel makes clear, "everybody knows the sequel is never quite as good" as the original, but that's not strictly true here. Sure, the charming couple played by Jason Segel and Amy Adams is gone, but this adventure is a return to old-school Muppets: a globe-hopping trip, a case of stolen identity, and plenty of musical numbers that include celebrity cameos from a cast as diverse as the intended audience. (There's also a fair bit of action and even some guns.) Oscar winner Bret McKenzie is back as music supervisor and original-song composer, and his new tracks are witty and silly and everything kids will want. There's no song quite as poignantly powerful as "Man or Muppet," but the actual song-and-dance numbers are every bit as charming and appealing as you'd expect.
As for the story, the celebs are all happy to comply with the silliness: from Tina Fey as a gulag warden and the prison gang featuring Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta, and Jemaine Clement to Burrell as leisurely French Interpol agent and of course Gervais as Constantine's slightly sinister sidekick. But the real stars, of course, are the Muppets themselves. They will entertain audiences of all ages with their meta jokes and knowing songs and their interpersonal conflicts. Miss Piggy is a real standout as the character with the most lose (or gain?) when faced with Constantine's marriage proposal. Is the fake Kermit able to give everyone what they want, or is it only the authentic Kermit who keeps the Muppets together? We already know the answer, but that doesn't mean the adventure isn't a fast and fun ride.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the Muppets are appealing. What do you like about the Muppets? How are Muppets different from animated characters? How can you find out more about how the Muppets are created and operated?
Who is the audience for this movie? Are all the jokes written for kids? Why would filmmakers want to include jokes for adults in a kids' movie? Can you remember your favorite joke?
Did you recognize all the celebrities in the movie? Why do you think the filmmakers wanted celebrities in this movie? Why would the celebrities want to be in this movie?
How would you describe the relationship between Kermit and Miss Piggy? Do you think they have a healthy relationship? Does their relationship draw on any stereotypes about men or women?
- In theaters: March 21, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: August 12, 2014
- Cast: Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell
- Director: James Bobin
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Music and Sing-Along, Puppets
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild action
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