I’ve been taking behavioral lessons from Miss Piggy since I was little.
I haven’t perfected my karate chop and “hiiiiiyah!” but I’m pretty certain I’ve had more diva moments than I’m willing to admit. And we won’t talk about the growling and glares I give pretty regularly.
I was too young to have watched “The Muppet Show” during its original run. It decided to exit stage left as I was entering the world. That didn’t stop me from discovering it, though. In 1984, Jim Henson introduced his funny friends to a brand new generation in “Muppet Babies,” a cartoon that ran till 1991.
It whetted my appetite, and my love of the Muppets only grew. The Jim Henson Company’s initial outings — “The Muppet Movie,” “The Great Muppet Caper” and “The Muppets Take Manhattan” — hold a special place in my early childhood adventures.
They had some creative missteps, including the company’s two outings for Walt Disney Pictures — “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island” — and sole outing with Columbia Pictures: 1999’s The-Movie-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. The crew returned to the big screen and found blockbuster success with “The Muppets,” which starred all my old favorites and Jason Segal and Amy Adams.
The film’s success cemented a sequel, which arrived last week in the form of “Muppets Most Wanted.”
While the film had funny bits, it also had something that I absolutely hate: shtick. The trailer warned it was coming, but I hoped the shtick was limited.
While the first movie has humor, catchy songs and heck of a lot of heart, this new one relies on gags, obvious jokes and even a little bathroom humor.
“The Muppets” was an origin story of sorts. A new Muppet, Walter, was introduced, and the old gang had to find its way back to each other after years of being apart. More than anything, the film had heart.
“Muppets Most Wanted” has a Kermit look-a-like named Constantine, who is only distinguishable by his mole and his Russian accent — which no one finds suspicious — once he switches places with the real Kermit. Constantine is the most dangerous frog in the world and a jewel thief.
There’s no shortage of stars and cameos in this one. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey take lead roles, with Gervais being the strongest. He carries himself with a dry humor while Burrell and Fey are both pushed into roles that are over-the-top comedy.
Other notables include Tom Hiddleston, James McAvoy, Salma Hayak, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Ray Liotta, Frank Langella and my personal fave, Josh Groban.
The Muppets are based on humor. Bits and sketches, some of them completely ridiculous, are what built the empire that stands today. But a big part of the appeal is also the fact that we love these characters.
Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal and even that weirdo Gonzo are like family, both to each other and to us. The Kermit/Constantine switcheroo that no one notices not only offends our favorite frog but the audience a little as well.
And then there’s Miss Piggy, the beautiful, opinionated diva that taught me French at an early age. Gone is the willful, strong pig we know and love. Instead, we’re left with a woman so desperate to marry her frog prince, she ignores anything and everything he says. She’s completely taken in by the smarmy Constantine because he’s willing to give her whatever she wants, including a trip down the aisle.
Piggy has always loved Kermit and pushed him to his limits. But, I don’t think the strong-willed diva would swallow her pride quite this much or be this swayed by someone who is obviously not HER frog.
There are laughs though. Children and adults will undoubtedly enjoy the film.
However, there’s just a little something off whether it’s characters, such as Miss Piggy, not acting like themselves, bit actors going too big or crazy Constantine. It doesn’t quite work as a whole, feeling as counterfeit and fake as the world’s most dangerous frog.
The humor is a little too forced, and the plot a little too farfetched.
Nonetheless, I did enjoy the film. I just wish that my favorite fleece pals could have come along for the ride.
Amanda Greever is the assistant managing editor of The Daily Times; she’ll also be contributing film reviews on a regular basis for Weekend. Contact her at amanda.greever@thedailytimIes.com, follow her on Twitter @agreever_editor and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend