Muppets Most Wanted . . .

Well . . . I can honestly tell you that I have an early entry for my favorite movie of 2014 - Muppets Most Wanted.

No. I'm not kidding. Why would I actually argue that this is the best movie of the year? I'm not. I'm arguing it is the best movie I've seen so far this year (and also the third - Saving Mr. Banks in January (I loved every frame of it and every tear it yanked from my eyes) and Monuments Men a week or so ago (beautiful and well casted/acted but the story construction and character development were weak, candidly - but I'm going to read the book so . . . yeah). BUT I don't know how easy it will be to dethrone this one, frankly.

My taste in movies has changed a lot over the years. When I was a kid I wanted movies that excited me and made me laugh. As a teen I wanted movies that showed me boobs and sexual situations. As a younger adult I wanted movies that made me seem deep, smart, or edgy (and that showed me boobs). As a mid-20s something I liked documentaries and foreign/art house films almost exclusively. As my 30s began I liked any movie my then-wife liked. By a few years later I liked any movie she did not (I kid, I kid). Now I am back to having my own taste and, frankly, I like the stuff I liked as a kid. It might be because I'm a parent but I think this reversion speaks to the first thing cinemas were meant to provide - escape.

And Muppets Most Wanted has escape galore. Literally and figuratively for the characters and certainly for the audience.

Here's the premise . . . picking up exactly where the fantastic Muppets reboot of 2011 that Jason Segel (a lifelong lover of the puppets - who is not in this movie at all but his writing partner on the first one wrote and directed this one so . . . there is similar love given) breathed such joy, love, and humor in to left off. The gang learns that "popular demand" has forced a sequel and a World Tour is the best plot line the group can come up with (suggestions made musically, of course). A new agent (played wonderfully by the talented Ricky Gervais) offers to manage the tour and we soon learn that his motives are less than pure. He is the world's Number 2 criminal to his boss - and Kermit doppelganger - Constantine's, Number 1 and he wants The Muppets to tour the great cities of Europe while playing venues adjacent to some of the continent's biggest treasures. Of course for the movie to "work" Kermit must go to prison for the escaped Constantine and the evil frog must "lead" the often only-half-listening Muppets through their disastrous shows.

Yes. I know. That sounds absurd and silly and vaguely horrible but - cynical tough guy - we're talking about puppets and a musical here. Andrew Lloyd Weber should be so lucky in the year 2014.

The joy this movie put in me is hard to compare (and I've been excited since the closing credits three years ago so I had expectations that would be hard to meet) and is worth noting. The movie was just short of perfect.

The casting was wonderful - Tina Fey as the head mistress of Russia's toughest Gulag made me an even bigger fan of the funny (but not great as an actress) woman. Ty Burrell as a hapless, stereo-typed European "Inspector" made me want to give Modern Family a try. Gervais, as mentioned, was wonderful and made me want to get skinny again (if only to wear his costumes) and was so funny and subtle in his role. I won't even get in to all the cameos and how terrific they were - as always - but they were terrific.

What really did it for me with this Muppet movie was what I loved about the old ones . . . the music. The soundtrack is toe-tapping good and the lyrics are so funny and sly in some of their composition. Exhibit A (and my favorite song from the movie - don't worry - the guy is not visible in the movie) . . .

I don't care if you have kids or not. I don't care if you like The Muppets or not. I am willing to bet you will enjoy this movie. If NOT - your ticket to Fast Furious 7 (on APRIL 10, 2015 (release date just announced)) is on me (Restrictions apply.).