Muppets Most Wanted Turns 10 – A ToughPigs Discussion

Published: March 20, 2024
Categories: Feature

On March 21st 2014, Kermit and the gang hit the road and headed to Europe for Muppets Most Wanted. Now, 10 years later, the ToughPigs team are getting together to take a look at this decade-old feature film!

Well, it’s been 10 years since The Muppets did it all again with Muppets Most Wanted! Cast your mind back to 2014. Do you remember your initial thoughts when the film was released?

MATTHEW SOBERMAN: I remember thinking, “finally, a post-Jim era film cracks my top three favorite Muppet movies.”

ANTHONY STRAND: I had seen The Muppets theatrically four times, so I was really hyped that they were (ahem) doing a sequel. It also came out during my spring break, so I toyed around with the idea of seeing it every single day. That didn’t happen, but I did see it three times.

JOE HENNES: I was so jazzed.  Not only did I love that the Muppets were big enough stars for Disney to justify TWO theatrically released films, but ToughPigs had grown to a place where we could actually participate in the promotional stuff.  It was a lot of work, but we got to go to the red carpet premiere in LA and get quoted in a TV commercial and – most excitingly – we got to see the movie before everyone else.  By the time the movie came out, excitement was HIGH on every level.

SHANE KEATING: I remember also being really jazzed about it. There were good jokes and very good songs. The only bad aspect, at the time, were the screenings. I saw it twice, both with friends, and we were among a very small amount of people there. Not a positive sign!

JARROD FAIRCLOUGH: Young Ryan Dosier had got me in to an early critics screening and I’d had to take a day off work to see it, AND I had to travel in to the city to watch it in some tiny fancy theatre with some snobby types who all knew each other. I remember walking out and texting him how amazing I’d found Eric Jacobson’s performances, and how impressed I was with David Rudman’s Scooter. I also audibly said during the film ‘THAT’S BLIND PEW!’ but I don’t think anyone heard me…

BETH COOK: I’d loved the 2011 movie, so I was very excited for MMW, if a little cautiously optimistic, “cuz everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have any local Muppet friends who would go see it in the theater with me, so I didn’t see it until later.

RYAN ROE: Gosh, was I excited. Only three years after a good and popular Muppet movie and we were getting ANOTHER one?! I was also so happy to see the huge marketing push for it… If I remember right, the Super Bowl pregame show that year had been called “The Muppets Most Wanted Pregame Show,” and then as the release date approached the movie was on seemingly every billboard, taxi, and bus shelter in NYC. Muppet fans love to complain that Disney doesn’t promote the Muppets, but you can’t say that about this movie.

DANNY HORN: We were painstakingly documenting every bit of publicity on Muppet Wiki — Kermit rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange! Miss Piggy takes over QVC! — and it seemed like they were getting the word out as much as they could. This wasn’t going to be like Muppets From Space, where nobody even noticed it came out… except that’s kind of what happened anyway. 

J.D. HANSEL: I mostly avoided spoilers for this one, so I loved being surprised by the story and all the terrific songs… until I realized their final number was a lesser version of a song we already knew. Now with bad green screen. I left with mixed feelings.

BECCA PETUNIA: When The Muppets (2011) came out, I was so hyped. I gathered a ton of friends and we went to a midnight screening; I dressed as Dr. Teeth. It truly felt like a once-in-a-lifetime event. I guess I wasn’t that excited when Muppets Most Wanted came out, but I was still super hyped. I had recently become a major presence in online Muppet fandom, with a popular Tumblr blog (remember those?) and a budding friendship with Joe Hennes and Ryan Roe, and the excitement was definitely palpable in the community. I still gathered a bunch of friends together for this release.

Where does it stand in your rankings 10 years later?

MATTHEW: I still think it’s in the top half (sorry, The Muppets Take Manhattan), but as I’ve gotten older, my appreciation for The Muppet Christmas Carol has grown significantly to take over that number three slot.

ANTHONY: I can’t put it any higher than fifth – the first four are all masterpieces – but it’s an extremely respectable fifth. I have major problems with every other post-Christmas Carol movie, but not this one. It’s basically just a delightful movie that I adore.

JOE: Literally the same as Anthony’s response above.  Nothing will ever top the original three Jim-era films, and Muppet Christmas Carol is near perfect.  So of all the not-perfect Muppet movies, this is easily the best.

SHANE: Ditto. Can’t be higher than the originals, but I might put it ahead of Muppets Take Manhattan? Hot take! It’s just got more of a loosey-goosey Muppety feel than that.

BETH: Team Anthony-is-Correct.

JARROD: It might be a close third, right behind The Muppet Movie and then Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s The Muppets being Muppety, with far catchier songs than Caper, so maybe that’s why it edges it out…

RYAN: Usually I think it’s fifth, but when I’m in the midst of re-watching it I start to think maybe it’s fourth. It’s very fun to watch.

DANNY: A close fourth, right under the first three movies. 

BECCA: Like many of the gang here, I prefer the first four movies over Muppets Most Wanted. It used to be fifth in my ranking, but I think my nostalgia for Muppets From Space beats it out, putting it at a respectable sixth.

J.D.: Lately, I’ve been strangely nostalgic for ‘90s Muppet movies, including Muppets from Space, somehow. That bumps Most Wanted down to seventh. I don’t understand this either.

Muppet fans tend to compare Muppets Most Wanted with the 2011 film The Muppets.  Do you have a preference and why?

MATTHEW: Of the two, I think I prefer Muppets Most Wanted, because it’s just so much funnier. The Muppets has a lot of heart, but Most Wanted brings the jokes.

ANTHONY: Jason Segel and Walter were my two least-favorite things about the 2011 movie, so this one almost had to be an improvement. It actually centers the Muppet gang as the main characters in the story, which was such a good decision.

JOE: When Muppets Most Wanted premiered, I went to a screening that showed it back-to-back with The Muppets.  In comparison, the 2011 is so sad – so much of it is focused on the Muppets being miserable because they’re not together, and then miserable because they’re losing their theater.  Muppets Most Wanted focused more on the zany fun and the caper aspect, so it’s definitely the one I’d prefer to rewatch.

SHANE: Both bother me because they shot extremely long films and then cut them down within an inch of their life, so they move so quickly and gloss over certain things that were probably important (i.e. Constantine’s backstory). This film handles the edits better than the 2011 one, though. It also is more Muppet-focused, which is good, and I would argue has better music (i.e. the soundtrack is not mostly covers).

JARROD: Muppets Most Wanted is the far superior Muppet film, and I won’t hear any argument otherwise. I will never forgive the 2011 film for wrapping up the plot during the credits. That’s awful filmmaking and I’m not sure how Bobin got a second go, even if I’m glad he did so he could redeem himself. The 2011 film is Disney saying ‘Nawww, don’t you love Kermit? Yeah, we love Kermit too’. Most Wanted is Disney going ‘HAHA, look at the puppet frog blowing stuff up!’ and that’s the space where I prefer The Muppets to be.

RYAN: They’re both good, but over time I’ve come to vastly prefer Most Wanted. The Muppets is a movie about how good the Muppets used to be and how pleasant Jason Segel’s childhood memories of them are. Muppets Most Wanted is a movie about what happens when you just let the Muppets make a funny movie.

DANNY: Muppets Most Wanted is funnier than 2011, and it’s got one great song after another. It’s the Muppets going out into the world and putting on a show, like they’re supposed to be, and having fun doing it. 

J.D.: Right. Most Wanted has so many phenomenal numbers that I kind of have to give it the trophy.

BECCA: At the time, I liked Muppets Most Wanted more than 2011 for the same reasons as everyone else. Nowadays, I really like Muppets Most Wanted more than 2011. Like, 2011 is among my least favorite Muppet projects. But more on that when that movie turns 20 or whatever.

At the time, Muppets Most Wanted didn’t receive the same acclaim as its predecessor.  Why do you think that was?

MATTHEW: I think people wanted that sentimental nostalgia that they got from The Muppets, and this movie just wasn’t that. The gang was back on their own two feet and ready to move on from their past, but audiences weren’t.

ANTHONY: The Muppets is nostalgic about the idea of the Muppets. It’s a movie that asks its audience to remember when the Muppets were popular, unlike now when they’re washed up. Most Wanted, on the other hand, assumes that they’re still popular and the audience wants to see them have another adventure. That’s both why hardcore fans tend to prefer it and also why general audiences didn’t actually care.

JOE: I have a lot of theories.  The biggest may be that The Muppets was promoted with the idea that “The Muppets are back!,” so of course you gotta go see it!  Muppets Most Wanted didn’t have anything close to that sort of call to action, so it felt like, “The Muppets are always around if you want to bother spending $18 to see them.”  That plus some extremely lackluster promotional materials led to low ticket sales and a lower acclaim.  I’m still shocked to learn that a lot of big Muppet fans haven’t gotten around to seeing the movie yet.

SHANE: Maybe it should have had Elmo in it. He’s pretty popular.

RYAN: I’m really not sure. It may have actually been a little too soon after the 2011 movie. I bet a lot of folks who were kids in the ‘70s through the ‘90s saw The Muppets but didn’t make an effort to see Muppets Most Wanted. But I’m heartened to observe that there’s a whole new generation of young people now who were still kids when Most Wanted came out, and now it’s one of their foundational Muppet texts. I hope that trend continues as more new Muppet fans are created!

JARROD: I don’t recall there being much of a marketing push around Walter in the promos for the 2011 film. Yeah, he was there, but it wasn’t like ‘Here’s Walter, a new Muppet, love him!’ in all of the ads (that I can remember). Whereas this movie had a big push for Constantine, him being the largest face on a lot of the posters, so maybe people were thinking they didn’t want to spend money on a film about some Muppet they didn’t know. Also, around 2014 is when a lot of the world really started falling out of love with Ricky Gervais, so maybe that didn’t help sales…

J.D.: I don’t think we can ever really know. Nobody’s figured how to make a review aggregator. What a rotten world!

DANNY: The marketing needed to be one sentence: “Constantine is trying to ruin Kermit and Miss Piggy’s wedding.” Period. It’s such an obvious hook, with a huge impact on the only running storyline the Muppets have ever had. Instead, the posters were just a generic shot of happy Muppets, with happy celebrities behind them. People got the point that the Muppets were making another movie, but there was no story that would entice them to actually go to the theater to see it. 

BECCA: Also for what it’s worth, they should’ve released the Extended Cut in theaters, which addresses some of the “plotholes” in the theatrical version.

Enough with the scrutiny!  What’s the best song on the soundtrack?

MATTHEW: I know it had no chance against the likes of “Glory” and “Everything is Awesome,” but darn it, “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” was robbed of an Oscar nomination. Constantine was ripped off way more than those lousy banks and museums!

ANTHONY: “The Interrogation Song” has so many great jokes, and it’s mostly sung by the classic Muppet Show gang! 

JOE: “I’ll Get You What You Want” gets the most plays on my Spotify, but the best song is undoubtedly “Something So Right.”  Eric Jacobson sings the heck out of that song, and the lyrics are genuinely touching and complicated.  Plus, a surprise appearance by Celine Dion in, I believe, her on-screen film debut.

SHANE: If we’re going by the plays they have in my iTunes library, “Interrogation Song” edges ahead of the rest. It’s a totally unique kind of patter number they never really did before and it works. And for the curious, “Macarena” is the least-played.

BETH: I echo what Joe said, but “Interrogation Song” is my favorite. We learned from Movin’ Right Along that originally in GMC, Sam was supposed to be an investigator, and there was supposed to be a Welcome to Jail song—MMW gave us both, and that feels like the coolest, most obscure Easter egg.

JARROD: We’re Doing A Sequel had me sitting with my jaw dropped at how big it felt the four times I saw it in the cinemas. It still gives me those feelings when I listen to the song in my car super loud. But also, ‘Something So Right’ deserved an Oscar nomination, and we were robbed of seeing The Muppets and Celine Dion perform that on stage, and I want you to remember that.

RYAN: My answer is “Cockatoo in Malibu.” But I genuinely thought “Something So Right” had a chance at an Oscar nomination!

DANNY: “Something So Right” is the perfect Miss Piggy song, with fun cameos from a lot of other Muppets, and the ridiculous thrill of Celine Dion showing up in the middle of it. That shot when the black-and-white Muppets suddenly turn toward the audience is a guaranteed laugh-out-loud moment. 

BECCA: I don’t want to be repetitive here, so I’ll say I just genuinely love the instrumental score for the film.

J.D.: I’m torn between “We’re Doin’ a Sequel”, “I’m Number One”, and “The Big House”, which are all perfect and beautiful masterpieces. Chef’s kissy-kissy.

How do you feel about the human cast?

MATTHEW: My issue is less with the cast and more with how they’re written. It’s clear that every human in this film is having the time of their lives doing a Muppet movie and giving it their all, but poor Jean-Pierre Napoleon is a one-joke character that’s stretched way too thin. (And it’s not even a good joke at that.) Nadya feels like Liz Lemon with a Russian accent, and Dominic… okay, he’s fine. I just wish they felt more connected to the story.

ANTHONY: What Matthew said about Jean-Pierre Napoleon? That’s the opposite of how I feel about him. I think Ty Burrell is hilarious, and his chemistry with Sam the Eagle is off the charts. I had no idea that was a comedic duo I needed in my life, but I’m so glad they found each other. And it’s great to see my favorite actress currently working – Soairse Ronan – appear with the Muppets, even though she gets absolutely nothing to do.

JOE: I like Ty Burrell a lot in this movie – he seems to understand that he’s “one-note,” and milks it for all its worth.  Heck, some of my favorite Muppets are one-note!  He fits right in.  Over time, I’ve cooled on my opinions on Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais as comedians and performers, but I’m pleased to say that those little things I don’t love so much aren’t really on display in this movie.

JARROD: Ty Burrell is a damn treasure in anything he’s doing, and this was no exception. I was a Ricky Gervais apologist for a long time (I really fell off him during his later Golden Globe stints and now I can’t stand him) so I was super thrilled he was in it, and I will forever adore Tina Fey, who can sing but has made jokes about not being able to sing in things like 30 Rock and Mean Girls.

SHANE: Ty’s character serves really no purpose, he and Sam are always behind and barely affect the plot in any meaningful way. But the two are funny and have some of the best jokes (and as stated above, the best song). Tina Fey’s character is…fine, I guess. The pacing, again, is very fast so her sudden love of Kermit feels rushed. And Ricky uses his expert skills of not being a great person to play a not great person.

BETH: The presence of Josh Groban almost makes up for the presence of Ricky Gervais.

DANNY: Ty Burrell is fantastic, clearly having a blast and letting the audience in on the fun. Ricky Gervais’ performance in “I’m Number One” is just perfect. Tina Fey is a letdown, but mostly because I think that storyline is a waste of time. 

BECCA: I like Dominic Badguy a lot. I just strongly disagree with everything the real Ricky Gervais says and that really sours the film as a whole for me.

J.D.: It feels like it’s all TV stars turning in so-so TV comedy performances, which is probably why this feels more like a direct-to-streaming movie, which in turn may have kept audiences from rushing to see it on the big screen.

What’s the best joke in the film?

MATTHEW: There were a lot of gems, but only one that was just for Muppet fans. As the gang wonders why Walter would leave the Muppets just after having a whole movie to set up his being there, Rizzo reminds us that while Walter got the spotlight, other characters got shoved to the background after leading roles in previous movies. And then bringing out Robin is the icing on the cake.

ANTHONY: I like when Beauregard drives the train backwards.

JOE: “Goodnight, Danny Trejo.”

J.D.: I second “Goodnight, Danny Trejo.”

SHANE: Danny Trejo is a triple threat – singer, dancer, and murderer.

BETH: I’m partial to “A heartwarming lesson about sharing or waiting your turn or the number three.”

JARROD: I’m gonna say Constantine yelling ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEEEES’ instead of ‘YAAAAAAAAAY’ while watching his Kermit tapes. I still sometimes say ‘Nailed it’ in my Constantine voice.

RYAN: The ongoing joke of Constantine’s mispronunciations is a good one. The scene with “The lovers, the dreamers, and cheese” gets a laugh from me every time.

DANNY: Miss Piggy’s verse of the “Interrogation Song,” especially the extended version — starting with “I think it’s time for good cop, romantic cop!” and then a string of funny rhymes from the pig. 

BECCA: It’s an incredibly easy joke, but I laugh every time Dominic introduces himself and explains his last name is pronounced “bad-gee.”

Alright, let’s channel our inner Statler and Waldorf – what’s the worst moment in the film?

MATTHEW: It still bugs me that the big moment where Fozzie Bear and Walter realize Constantine’s scheme comes down to a product placement for Subway. It’s not even subtle! It takes me out of the movie every time, and it’s why I’ve switched to Jersey Mike’s for my sandwich needs.

ANTHONY: Walter – a guy who just met everyone last week – is one of the first to notice that Kermit doesn’t seem like himself. His entire role in this movie should absolutely be played by Gonzo or Scooter.

JOE: I want to say something here that hasn’t been said, if only for variety’s sake.  But that dang Subway ad is one of my least favorite moments in any Muppet movie.

SHANE: Walter’s guilt over the tour is totally unearned. His line about convincing Kermit to do the tour has no weight to it; he made a meek little suggestion early on and that somehow means he’s entirely responsible for everything that follows.

RYAN: Yeah, topping that Subway scene would be tough. And speaking of toppings and Subway, I’ll take mine with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, thanks.

DANNY: “The Big House” exposes the movie’s biggest weakness — it’s an over-long song with no Muppets singing, and it doesn’t give Kermit anything to do but look sad. The main character needs to have an active role in the film, and here Kermit is stuck on the sidelines in a not-funny environment. 

BECCA: Yeah, as a whole, there are just too many scenes that don’t have Muppets in them. The gulag stuff is funny, but I wish there were more Muppet prisoners with active roles. And don’t even get me started over the opening song, which includes a dance number with not a single Muppet in sight.

JARROD: It’s ‘Together Again’, by a mile. Awful green screen, I’m pretty sure Chloe Grace Moretz doesn’t know the words, the sound mixing feels off. It’s a fizzle when that movie deserved to end with a bang (CGI fireworks don’t count)

J.D.: Most everything about the ending disappoints me, but the part I find ickiest is when The Muppets each add a different fragment of the sentence about how much they need Kermit. The Muppets are free to be saps, but here, they’re a dang maple tree. Yucka.

What do you think the gas mileage on the Le Maximum is?

MATTHEW: We’ll never know, the odometer’s broken.

ANTHONY: Surely you mean the gas kilometerage.

JARROD: That’s the best joke Anthony has ever made.

JOE: Since Fozzie broke a hole through the floor, the mileage is however long you can run, Flintstones-style.

SHANE: Three hundred hectares on a single can of kerosene (as long as you put it in H).

RYAN: Sorry, I don’t know the metric system.

DANNY: Now it runs on bear feet. 

J.D.: Sorry, is that not the perfume Piggy and Joan Rivers try to sell in The Muppets Take Manhattan?

Any final thoughts?

MATTHEW: I recently went to a screening of the movie at the Museum of the Moving Image, and with many folks in the audience who hadn’t seen it before, it reminded me that the box office shouldn’t be the metric of its success. People laughed at nearly every joke, and were talking about it on the way out. I know the industry has gotten to the point where everything has to be a massive blockbuster for it to even be considered for a sequel, and that’s really disappointing, because I don’t think we’ll see another Muppet movie happening for a while. This was a good movie, and the Muppets deserve more cinematic adventures.

ANTHONY: Muppets Most Wanted is easily my favorite Muppet project of the past 30 years. I remember leaving the theater feeling like the Muppets were entering a new golden age. They’d made a good movie and then followed it up with a great one. I couldn’t wait to see where they went from there. It’s been a bumpy ride – some good, some bad, some forgotten – but I’m so glad we have this one delightful movie to watch over and over.

JARROD: I truly think this is the best thing The Muppets have done post-Jim. It’s big, it’s funny, it has heart. I’d like to pitch to the Disney merchandising team that we deserve Walter garden gnomes like when he pretends to be one during the Dominic stalking sequence. Also, in 2017 I went to London and walked around The Tower of London, and while my friend marvelled at the building, I spent 2 hours telling him things like ‘This is where Kermit snuck in to the wedding, oh this is where Beaker landed in the Thames, oh this is where Piggy started her song…’ He did not appreciate it.

JOE: This was truly such a special time for Muppet fans.  We were getting a big project from Disney without the need to “reintroduce” the Muppets to audiences all over again for the umpteenth time.  The Muppets were back in Hollywood, making movies, appearing on talk shows, having (a little) merchandise made.  We haven’t been here since the 90s, and it’s very possible we may never be there again.  Getting a great movie out of the whole situation is just icing on the cake.

BECCA: Even I can’t be that grumpy about this one. It’s just so much fun to watch. What a delight. Seek out the extended edition if you can!

RYAN: It’s really good. Like really, really, really good.

SHANE: I like doughnuts!

DANNY: It still breaks my heart — a really good Muppet movie that nobody saw, because the marketing was so vague. I hope that people have discovered it on Disney+; it deserves to be loved. 

Click here to say goodnight to Danny Trejo on the ToughPigs Discord server!

You May Also Like…

Written by ToughPigs Staff

Read More by ToughPigs Staff

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This