How do the Muppets follow up their 2011 crowd pleasing resurgence? With a song titled We’re Doing a Sequel including a lyric admitting that the second film in a series isn’t nearly as good as the first. Not so fast, guys. Muppets Most Wanted actually ends up being more memorable and more clever than its predecessor.
Picking up where The Muppets left off, the cheerful fleet of felt eye an upcoming tour as their next showbiz venture. The tour was suggested by their quick-witted, newly hired manager Dominc Badguy (pronounced ba-gee, and played by Ricky Gervais). Dominic doesn’t horse around, and instantly whisks the troupe off to Berlin for their first offshore show.
Kermit the Frog hits a bit of turbulence amongst the friends. His realist attitude and detailed planning makes him appear as someone who’s uptight, and the stress of keeping everyone together and happy has him feeling snappy towards the persistent Miss Piggy. Before you can say “it’s not easy being green”, Kermit is swapped out by evil mastermind Constantine – who strikes an uncanny resemblance to Kermit despite a trademark mole. Constantine takes Kermit’s position, and Kermit gets hauled away to the clink and barred inside a Russian Gulag.
Muppets Most Wanted begins with a bang with that wonderful self-referential song about sequels, and proceeds to make us giggle and tap our toes. Bret McKenzie returns with a boatload of tunes that give the film an additional push. We can even hear faint echos of his sense of humour made famous with Flight of the Concords in a fantastically catchy song titled I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu). If this was conceived earlier, Enrique Iglesias may have either claimed plagiarism or kicked himself for not thinking of a disco tune like this earlier.
Other hits include a duet between Constantine and Gervais in a goofy game of gloating, and silly sequences featuring a lot of tough actors (and Tina Fey) having a good chuckle with flashy show tunes inside the menacing Gulag.
There are, of course, those cameos that make lightening fast appearances. To give those away would be a crime greater than any of Constantine’s schemes. Muppets Most Wanted takes a more traditional approach to the special guest sightings by featuring most during the live variety show – maintaining that connection to their older material and what made the troupe household names.
Everything that happens in Muppets Most Wanted has the proper amount of screen time, though it’s arguable director James Bobin realizes how many ends he needs to tie up during the busy third act. He pulls it off, but we do sense the filmmaker trying to keep his smile adjusted while tying real hard not to break his poker face.
While on the topic of making ends meet, a subplot involving Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (played by Ty Burrell) and Sam Eagle (who apparently now works for the….CIA?) always felt like it was building towards payoffs that never came to fruition. Don’t get me wrong, Sam’s deadpan readings along with Burrell’s “Inspector Clouseau” act provides a lot of funny banter, but it doesn’t cumulate to anything bigger. Take their interrogation song, for example. It’s rhythmically brilliant, but it peters off.
Just like how The Muppets played to an audience, Muppets Most Wanted is a movie that offers more to older viewers than young ones. Children will love the melodies, the bouncy visuals, and the Muppet design, but not much else will stick. Older patrons, however, will be thrilled the old gang has returned to a mysterious caper rather than spending time to reacquaint themselves with fans who are already familiar with the colourful, always lovable leads.