Muppets Most Wanted opens with a gangbusters number called We’re Doing a Sequel which includes the line, ‘Everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good.’ While it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, being not quite as good as 2011’s The Muppets is still pretty darned good.
Following the opening number, Muppets Most Wanted sets up its plot – Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog, escapes from Siberia’s Gulag 38B and trades places with Kermit (the only difference between the two being a mole on one’s right cheek) while planning a series of three heists that will set up the theft of the crown jewels of England with his Number Two, Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais).
Badguy (pronounced Bahdjhee – it’s French) worms his way into managing the Muppets and sets them up on a world tour, beginning in the comedy capital of Europe, Berlin (the point at which Constantine replaces Kermit) – and things begin to pick up.
In the gulag, Kermit tries to persuade the warden, Natalia (Tina Fey) that he’s not Constantine but we soon see that she might actually rather have Kermit in her prison. The gulag arc finds Kermit finally giving up and deciding (!) to help put on the prison’s annual revue. The gulag’s inmates are played by a variety of actors of varying degrees of fame – Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo and Jemaine Clement.
There are things that you expect from the Muppets: slapstick, puns, and cameos (don’t blink or you’ll miss Chloe Grace Moretz!), self-referential humor (yay Statler & Waldorf!), villains trying to take advantage of the Muppets’ naivety, and even a bit of romance. Even though it takes a big longer than usual to get rolling, Muppets Most Wanted does check off all those boxes – sometimes in brilliant fashion (Chorus Line!).
Another thing you expect is for there to be gags that will get the kiddies laughing and the adults giggling. Yup. Mission accomplished.
Directed by James Bobin – who co-wrote with Nicholas Stoller (who co-wrote the previous movie) – Muppets Most Wanted might get off to a slow start, but it really zips along once ignition is acquired. From Gonzo’s Indoor Running of the Bulls (guest-starring Selma Hayek) to Missy Piggy sussing out which frog is her frog, there’s still lots top love here – perhaps best of all is Ty Burrell’s idiot Interpol inspector, a riff on Inspector Clouseau that is almost as insanely funny as the original Peter Sellers version (I said almost!) who is working with humor-deprived CIA agent Sam the Eagle to apprehend The Lemur (worst villain name ever!).
Muppets Most Wanted is preceded by Party Central – a genuinely clever and totally hilarious Monsters University short. If only the actual Monsters University had been as good.
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Photos courtesy of Disney