Today’s little girls idolize Miley Cyrus, Elle Fanning, Chloe Moretz and Selena Gomez. When I was growing up, my favorite celebrity was not an impossibly talented teenager but Miss Piggy of the Muppets! At age six, I was obsessed with the Muppets and was immediately drawn to Miss Piggy. I loved her frippery, impeccably coiffed hair, caustic, direct, no-nonsense approach to life and how she related to her co-stars. Her dry, adult witty humor spoke to me directly, though most kids did not fully comprehend it. My father, who had a sarcastic wit, exposed me to Monty Python, Peter Sellers and Gene Wilder. But there was something about fuzzy-wuzzy manipulated puppets which intrigued me. Every Monday evening at 7:30pm, my mom and I watched a new episode of the Muppet Show on our small black and white TV set, silver rabbit ear antennae extended into a V, taped down for maximum clear reception. The Muppet media franchise, now owned by Disney, has always been successful and continues to introduce a new movie every few years. When the “Muppet Movie” premiered in 1979, it instantly became my favorite and continues to be in my top 20 all-time favorites. What’s not to love about witnessing a cast with infectious laughter and camaraderie set to a parody sketch show? March 2014 Disney’s newest Muppet incarnation, “The Muppets Most Wanted”, stars Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey. It has been three years since the last one debuted, so I sent out a social media invitation to see who would be interested in going to the movie. With two friends in tow, I arrived at the theater dressed in a leopard dress, Miss Piggy wig, tiara, rubber snout, and “if-you-punched-Piggy-in-the-face-colored-pink” patent shoes. I was joined by my date, a Kermit the Frog plush doll, who sat perched on my shoulder throughout the movie. In this movie, the Muppets take us on a European tour turned caper, where funny, but staid stereotypes of short work weeks, eight week vacations and driving around in a car that is smaller than a Smart car come into play. Ricky Gervais who plays “Dominic Badguy” (“Bad-Gee – it’s French”) offers to be the gang’s tour manager, but colludes with notorious con and Kermit doppelgänger, Constantine in a map cap jewelry heist. The only mark that distinguishes Kermit from his nemesis is the huge mole on his left upper lip. In order to mastermind a continent-wide jewelry heist spree, Dominic usurps Kermit’s role as team leader and banishes him to a remote region. They achieve their goal by disguising him with a glued-on huge mole above his upper lip. It is now a case of mistaken identity and Kermit (“I am an amphibian American”) is arrested and sent to a Russian gulag.
My friends and I burst out laughing over this. How do you explain to a seven year old, a gulag? Well, if you knew my Polish grandmother, then no problem. I was only 6 years old when she first discussed WWII, concentration camps and gulags to me. And despite the retelling of traumatic events, I turned out ok.
One might think scenes in a gulag would be too dark for kids, but this is not the case. Kermit after all, is dressed rather well for a prisoner, but it is the celebrity cast (Ray Liotta and Stanley Tucci to name a few) who stages musical revues that remind us that song and dance routines make a Muppet movie magical. Tina Fey plays the prison commandant, Nadya who has a thing for Kermit and whose Russian accent is as authentic as a jar of Borscht made out of rutabaga and Red Dye #2.
Back in Europe, the gullible gang is fooled by nefarious Constantine and Dominic, who stage jewelry heists in between staging elaborate Muppet Show-style performances across Europe. Luckily, CIA agent Sam Eagle (“I hate Europe.”) and French Interpol agent Jean-Pierre Napolean (“It is my lunch hour. It lasts six hours.”) (Modern Family’s Ty Burrell) smell a rat and follow the tour to unravel these crime sprees.
I thought it was too cliché to have Jean-Pierre play this role as a pseudo-“Pink Panther”-Inspector Clouseau character. There is only one Inspector Clouseau, which was played by my beloved genius Peter Sellers, and which Hollywood should never resurrect. Let’s not forget the atrocity Hollywood committed by casting Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau in the 2006 remake “The Pink Panther.”
Kermit’s stalwart gang is finally clued in about his disappearance and stages a prison break-in to save the hapless frog.
The finale finds Kermit reunited with Piggy. What better way to celebrate his return than to hold a wedding rivaling any vile diamond-laden royal nuptials! Her shining moment finally arrives when she walks down the aisle with Kermit in London. Is it possible that after decades of dating these two will tie the knot? How could there not be a happy ending when you are walking down the aisle in a Vivienne Westwood gown? Forget Vera Wang! Piggy went Westwood!
Of course the entire gang is reunited, criminals are apprehended and the gang breaks out in typical Muppets-style song and dance.
What set this sequel apart is the amount of A-list celebrity cameos. I would have preferred to see newer Muppet characters, rather than playing “name-that-celeb.” Can’t Hollywood give celebrity-obsessed America a break and save P. Diddy, Lady Gaga, Salma Hayek, Christoph Waltz, Céline Dion, Josh Grobin, etc., for a future Muppet movie or Christmas special? Nah, in today’s world, celebrity in and of itself is idolized. After a Muppet-fest I could not leave my possé and retire. My girlfriends and I scuttled to a hamburger/wine bar to discuss the movie and stuff our face with grass-fed beef and cheap aged grape juice by the carafe.
You have to love a NY sense of humor. When I asked our hostess to pull up a high chair for my Kermit toy, she not only returned with a chair, but a plastic cup filled with water and wedge of lime. She thanked me for wearing the pig costume and bringing along my plush friend. We all laughed out loud, but fell silent when we were handed us the “1/2 off bottles of wine” happy hour menu. I wanted to wear my rubber snout the rest of the evening, but pulled that sucker off to enjoy my sumptuous dinner. I was grateful to be surrounded by like-minded friends who know how to have a good laugh and enjoy life while the wine is flowing.