The thing about re-booting a movie franchise is the risk of alienating fans of the original work at the expense of bringing in a whole new audience. Ask JJ Abrams about this (Spock likes girls? C’mon!). The James Bond movies had to deal with this as will the inevitable Star Wars reboot with Ryan Gosling as Han Solo, Zac Efron as Luke, and Miley Cyrus as Leia or Chewbacca. Critically, boxofficely (is that a word?), and yourstrulily (I know that’s a word!), The Muppets was a hit. But now Kermit, Fozzy, Piggy, Walter and the rest of the gang are faced with what might be a bigger challenge: Do it again.
Muppets Most Wanted picks up right where the prior film left off after a successful telethon to save their old theater with the wonderfully over-the-top We’re Doing a Sequel. Along with I’ll Get You What You Want performed by Constantine (we’ll get to him), while not quite reaching the heights of Rainbow Connection, Man or Muppet, or Life’s a Happy Song, they’re still fun enough to be downloaded aplenty. This time The Muppets get to travel to Europe on an international tour to which Kermit gives his consent only after being talked into it by talent agent-cum-evil sidekick Dominic Badguy (you know the joke if you’ve seen the trailer), played by Ricky Gervais. The Muppets get to travel to Madrid, Berlin, and London, all the while unknowingly being part of an international caper masterminded by the world’s most wanted criminal Constantine after he switches places with Kermit, for whom he’s a dead ringer.
Because no one believes poor Kermit’s story, he ends up in the Gulag where he’s forced by prison guard Nadya (Tina Fey) to direct an inmate talent show. If there’s anything to be criticized, it’s Kermit being relegated yet again, this time not interacting with the rest of the Muppets for most of the film. He’s got great chemistry with Tina Fey, having worked with her before (look it up), but as the heart and soul of the Muppets, I would’ve liked more time of him with the Muppets. But I’m picking nits because that means more screen time for Sam the Eagle and Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), an INTERPOL agent investigating the recent heists. This is the third relationship that drives the film after Dominic-Constantine and Kermit-Nadya, and the funniest. They send up pretty much every buddy cop movie, Sam being the no-nonsense American while Burrell is hilarious as the ultra-French, ultra-European Napoleon. He lampoons tiny cars, lunch breaks every 2 hours, and months-long vacations. And who doesn’t like a good bit of Francophobia?
Burrell’s performance exemplifies what makes these first two movies good. The human actors are completely sincere in their performances, without a hint of snark. That’s tough to pull off nowadays. The Muppets have always been earnest and have not needed to resort to that sort of thing, and the three leads here do just that. Imagine Seth MacFarlane but the exact opposite. Sam and Napoleon get to duet Interrogation Song and it’s quirky and terrific and totally Bret McKenzie, who won an Oscar for Man or Muppet for the previous film and is back for this one.
These movies are essentially musicals, and with 8 or so songs it’s easy for the action to come to a grinding halt, but one actually looks forward to them. Let’s hope that if there’s a third (or is it eighth? Not sure how we’re supposed to count?), he’s back. His Flight of the Conchords bandmate Jemaine Clement makes an extended cameo, as many, many others too numerous to list. You even get not one but TWO Inglorious Basterds cameos (Hugo Stiglitz!). So if you like the Muppets, or like heartfelt musicals, or want the kids to see something appropriate for them that doesn’t involve a tween girl sassing her parents, go see Muppets Most Wanted. It’s not The Muppets or The Muppet Movie. It’s The Great Muppet Caper. But better. But also in Europe.
Muppets Most Wanted is in theaters now! Head over to Fandango.com to get your tickets!
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