SYNOPSIS: The story picks up one second after the last one ended. Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang are on Hollywood Boulevard after their big comeback, wondering what to do next. A meeting with talent agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) seems to provide an answer. Against Kermit’s best judgment the Muppets accept Badguy’s offer of a European tour to open in “the world capitol of comedy, Berlin, Germany.” What they don’t know is that Badguy is an associate of Constantine, the planet’s most notorious criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit. The evil plan is to replace Kermit with Constantine, and use the Muppets as a cover for an ingenious plan to steal the Crown Jewels.
Richard: 3 Stars
Steve: 3 Stars
Richard: Steve, the new film from Jim Henson’s felt and fur creations is being billed as a sequel to the 2011 Jason Segel Muppets film, but it isn’t really. It’s more a return to the Muppet movies of old, packed to the gills with show biz in jokes, puns, songs and even a Swedish Chef homage to Ingmar Bergman. It’s more akin to The Great Muppet Caper than the most recent movie. Segel’s Muppet movie played heartstrings like Eric Clapton strums the blues, “Muppets Most Wanted” has more of an edge. Well, as much of an edge as a movie starring Kermit and Miss Piggy could have. Did you sense that?
Steve: I don’t know if edge is quite the word I’d use to describe it. It’s definitely got darker elements but unfortunately, the gimmicky plot of replacing Kermit with an evil doppelganger felt forced and less natural than Segel’s earnest version. Of course even the filmmakers were aware of that and smartly addressed the impossible expectation of sequels in the opening number. That kind of self-consciousness worked better in the last movie but I certainly thought the songs in Muppets Most Wanted surpassed the 2011 film. We even get to hear Ricky Gervais sing!
RC: I’m not sure I agree. The human characters—notably Gervais, Tina Fey as Nadya, a lusty Russian prison guard and Ty Burrell as an outrageous Interpol agent—are just as broad as the puppets which provides some laughs, but the emotional impact is blunted. To place it in an old Hollywood context, it’s more the slapstick of Abbott and Costello than the restrained, sweet comedy of Charlie Chaplin. I liked Segel’s take on the sweetness of the Muppets, but having said that, this movie made me laugh.
SG: It’s true. It is fairly funny all the way through. It’s probably slightly unfair to measure this film against its predecessors anyhow – even if it does lack some of the pure warmth of Segel’s. And it was fun to see all the talent showing up in clever cameo appearances – especially Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo as prisoners-turned-aspiring showmen. However, even the sheer bulk of celebrities feels slightly distracting. They should just let the Muppets do the work.
RC: I agree. The Muppets bring a good deal of goodwill with them and the movie shines brighter as a result. It’s hard not to giggle at the gags but an exchange between Fozzie and Walter hits a bit too close to an uncomfortable plot truth. “Looks like he’s planning some kind of heist bit,” Fozzie says of Constantine. “I hope not,” replies Walter, “they never work.” That’s a gag, this one works, but because of the Muppets, not because of the human stars.
SG: In the end, the fans that are going to pay to see Muppets Most Wanted will already have a good idea what they’re in for. Besides, as that aforementioned opening musical number states, “everyone knows the sequel’s not quite as good.”