While neither as complete nor compelling as the previous outing, it’s still a fun time with your favorite felt characters.
Picking up exactly where the last film left off, the newly re-assembled “Muppet Show” cast turns to Kermit the Frog for their next move; enter Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) with a proposal for a world tour. Unbeknownst to the Muppets (but knownst to us), Dominic works for Constantine, a criminal mastermind who just happens to be a ringer for Kermit – except for a facial mole. Using a Muppet world tour to cover a series of museum thefts, Constantine replaces Kermit, banishing him to a Russian gulag under the obsessive eye of Warden Nadya (Tina Fey). After the first caper, CIA operative Sam Eagle is reluctantly teamed up with Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) to solve the crime, but will anyone other than superfan Walter ever believe Kermit isn’t really Kermit?
The original “Muppet Show” was a great format: a run-down vaudvillian theater run by slighty twisted but well-meaning puppets. At thirty minutes including commercials, it was just long enough, but the Muppet movies have often been self-consciously plagued with exactly how to fill ninety or more minutes. The Muppets did a great job in finding a balance between story and song, but the sequel starts slow after the first song before finding its stride. While not as well-rounded as The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted finds its footing as it goes along. Fans should be pleased enough, but while Jason Seigel and Amy Adams took up much of The Muppets screen time, that almost seems to have worked better than allowing the Muppets themselves to star center stage – who knew?
Ricky Gervais always seems a bit full of himself – it IS his act, after all – but while still playing pompous, he’s willing to make a fool of himself for the sake of the film. Ty Burrell in a faux Euro accent sparing with Sam Eagle is a highlight of the film; heck, that should be its own movie! The real human star, however, is Tina Fey as the Russian Warden – as well as a cast of prisoners you MIGHT be a bit familiar with. Of course, all your favorite Muppets are back, including a few that got skipped over the first time around.
While The Muppets felt like an event, Muppets Most Wanted feels like exactly what it is: a follow-up. Maybe that’s not the worst thing – there’s plenty to love and enjoy – and perhaps it’s too much to expect each new film would match the previous. Franchises running this long often need a shot in the arm; while The Muppets was certainly a good one, a film franchise in this day and age needs something more eventful than this follow up to keep the attention of audiences. Hmm… how about The Muppets vs. Team America? The Muppets Take Westeros? No wait! How about The League of Extraordinary Muppets?
(a three skull recommendation out of four)