Now that The Muppet Show’s original five seasons are all streaming on Disney+, a lot more people are likely to end up taking a look back at some of the studio’s other Muppet offerings on the streaming platform that might have faded a bit from the public consciousness.
While everyone’s understandably been excited to rewatch The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, consider director James Bobin’s Muppets Most Wanted from 2014, a movie that understood the simple truth: Walter the Muppet is not a leading actor. Instead, Muppets Most Wanted led with a story that more effectively lent itself to the movie’s puppet ensemble and human guests stars alike.
Even though the movie features a couple of classic tunes like “Together Again” and “The Muppet Show Theme,” it’s the original songs that really make Muppets Most Wanted still so surprisingly strong to watch, having now seen what the Muppets are up to these days. These things are, of course, a matter of taste, but io9's ranking of Muppets Most Wanted’s new songs from “eh, fine,” to “fantastic” is as follows:
Over the course of Muppets Most Wanted, this song’s title becomes increasingly aspirational both in terms of how it stacks up against the movie’s other tracks and what it does to really make Constantine—a villainous Kermit imposter—an interesting character. There are moments throughout the movie that really showcase what kind of effective chaos agent Constantine can be when he puts his mind to it and sets to stealing Kermit’s identity. However, as a moment of character building and a would-be earworm, “I’m Number One” falls flat.
Sam the Eagle, the Muppets’ resident straight man, has delivered some of the franchise’s most memorable laughs that don’t come by way of slapstick humor. You can see the logic that went into casting Sam as part of the team looking into the crimes at the center of the film, but “Interrogation Song” is more of a lyrical conversation than an outright jam, and there are certain moments where the track comes dangerously close to Hamilton territory.
One of the tricky things about discussing Muppet movies is weighing how well the human actors fit into the story and play off the puppeteers’ energies to create the illusion of the soft creatures being alive.
Tina Fey’s Nadya, a prison guard working in a gulag where Kermit’s been mistakenly sent in Constantine’s place, gets one of Muppets Most Wanted’s smoothest, most replayable songs. But “The Big House” is something of a contentious point because the scene it’s featured in doesn’t include all that many Muppets aside from a stunned Kermit, who sort of just tags along as he’s brought to his jail cell. If “The Big House” had been a moment that spotlighted more of the Muppets rather than the movie’s energetic human cast, it’d stand out as a prime example of the puppets stealing the show the way they’re meant to. But instead, it was a bit of a reminder that there’s a bunch of people dancing around when the Muppets aren’t on screen.
As Muppets Most Wanted’s opening number, “We’re Doing a Sequel” has the unenviable task of bringing everyone back into the characters’ world, letting you know why the movie isn’t just going to be a rehash of what’s come before, and hopefully be something audiences will hum to themselves long after leaving the theater.
“We’re Doing a Sequel” makes a valiant attempt at doing all these things, and its arrangement of strings and a choice piano solo solidify its place relatively high on this list. But both the song and its sequence in the movie are busy almost to the point of distraction. It also relies a bit too much on the Muppets’ capacity for self-awareness to go for easy laughs about the franchise’s fame in the real world, something that’s highlighted to disappointing effect with rather forgettable cameos from Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.
A truly great Muppets song is one whose lyrics propel the story being told forward while also ringing true to the motivations of the Muppets, and being a banger in its own right. While Constantine might not be the most original concept for a Muppet, the way the film uses “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” to show you how willing he is to work his way into Miss Piggy’s life and heart is brilliant.
“Something So Right” ranks highest on this list because it brings both the deep character growth and the outsized amount of raw star power that often ends up making Muppets movies stand the test of time.
Entertaining as it’s always been to watch Piggy and Kermit do their messed-up dance with one another over the decades, it’s just as interesting to see whenever the two characters begin to consider just what to make of their relationship and whether they want to change the dynamic they have. Lines of Muppet thought like these require a certain degree of absurdity that only celebrities like Celine Dion are able to pull off without making complete fools of themselves, and it’s something worth seeing and hearing for yourself.
Muppets Most Wanted is now streaming on Disney+.
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