Friday, March 21, 2014

Muppets Most-ly Wanted

After the success of 2011's big-screen relaunching of the Muppets franchise, director James Bobin and co-writer Nicholas Stoller return (along with Christophe Beck who once again writes the songs) for a mostly enjoyable sequel that sadly lacks the heart of the previous film.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Muppets Most Wanted. It works as a wacky caper comedy, albeit not nearly as well as The Great Muppet Caper, with the trademarks of The Muppet franchise including cameos, running gags, frog and pig romance, and several fun (if not that memorable) songs. But ranking it against the Muppets other four major theatrical releases I would place it solidly last behind The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Picking up directly following the events of The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted begins with the group hiring Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) as their new agent who helps his boss, escaped thief Constantine (Matt Vogel) swich places with Kermit (Steve Whitmire) to use the Muppet's world tour as cover for a series of robberies.

With Kermit stuck in a Siberian prison run by Tina Fey, Constantine and Dominic lead the Muppets on a world tour to steal the clues necessary to allow them to later steal the Crown Jewels (to be sure, it's a plan worthy of an insane Muppet) while staying one-step ahead of CIA Agent Sam the Eagle (Eric Jacobson) and Interpol Agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) on their trail.

Despite the odd accent and total disregard or care for the level of performance the traveling Muppet Show is putting on, it takes quite some time before Walter (Peter Linz) and Fozzie (Jacobson) see through the switch, although Animal (Jacobson) knows a "bad frog" the moment he first lays eyes on him leading into the film's final act involving a daring prison escape, heist, wedding, and two singing and dancing frogs for the price of one.

Somewhat disappointing compared to the last feature, and lacking both the nostalgic pull and influence of James Segel (whose abscence is sorely felt both on-camera and off), Muppets Most Wanted is the type of film which will likely amuse children and entertain families for most of its 112-minute running time (which is at least 10 minutes too long). However, as with so many sequels, it's far from the quality of the movie that spawned it and isn't a film you are likely to go back to any time soon.

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