Review: Muppets Most Wanted
While beginning a sequel with a catchy number that cheekily jokes what is to come probably won’t be as great as the first film is both funny and nicely self-aware, it also plants the thought in your mind.
The opening song and dance of Muppets Most Wanted also makes a gag about finding the right, arbitrary plot to keep the gang together and earn a money-grab film. Though they make fun of a couple absurd suggestions, the plot they end up choosing severely limits how funny and satisfying the film can truly be.
The muppets are going on a European tour! But in their naiveté, they unwittingly trust a sleazy manager by the name of Dominic Badguy (Rickey Gervais) whose boss is a mastermind criminal and a spitting image of Kermit the Frog (save for a black mole on his cheek). So when this green Amphibian with a Russian accent by the name of Constantine switch places with Kermit and sends our loveable hero to a Siberian Gulag run by Tina Fey, the film in essence loses its central character.
It’s not that we don’t stop in on Kermit and the shenanigans going on this chilly outpost, one populated by among others, Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta, it’s just that we don’t stop in enough. A fair portion of the film is spent watching Constantine and Dominic break into banks and museums as they enact their elaborate plot to steal prized European possessions and frame the Muppets – but we’re not here for them.
The duet with the nefarious pair is charming, but as Constantine gets more screen time and another song, you can’t help but want not only more Kermit, but to get him back with his crew as soon as possible.
It’s all a risky move, and it’s doesn’t totally pay off in the middle stretches, where it seems to take forever for the muppets to figure out just what is going on. Splitting up your main character from an ensemble that we love immediately lowers the potential; Muppets Most Wanted is funny and likeable, but it hamstrings itself very early on.
Director James Bobin, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller, continues to wink and nod at the situation throughout. Without Kermit, the Muppets tour has no leader, meaning it’s a free-for-all. Each muppet decides to do his or her act without care of how incoherent, long, or lackluster it is. With Kermit on his own elsewhere, it’s hard to think of the movie as not suffering the same fate as the muppets touring revue.
Still, several of the random assortment of tangents and bits work, even if some go to the well one too many time (it’s funny the first time we see Trejo and Liotta sing and dance, but maybe not the third or fourth). Ty Burrell’s French Interpol Agent is a great character, sending up the Europeans’ carefree attitude towards work. He is teamed with Sam the Eagle, offering one of the best songs in a collection that is enjoyable but not show-stopping.
Eventually, of course, the group reunites and the finish almost makes up for the lag in the middle. The muppets are their winning selves, with Miss Piggy, Fozzy, and upstart Walter getting plenty of screen time. That’s what we are there for, after all. Well, that, and the cameos. Some are much harder to spot then others, so keep your wits about you, as more than a few very notable actors don costumes and accents for mere seconds.
At the end though, where a moral is sort of loosely-thrown together (it is a bit disheartening that the group couldn’t figure out the Kermit situation sooner), the opening number is still in your head: Muppets Most Wanted is good, but not great.