Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, Eric Jacobson, Steve Whitmire
James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller
Walt Disney Studios
2011's The Muppets was an unexpectedly loving and nostalgic tribute co-penned by and starring longtime fan Jason Segel. While it might be a stretch to say that the film was also an unexpected success, the simple truth is that more than a few people wondered if the gang still had the box-office power it had held in the past before finally fizzling downward largely due to diluted sequels that failed to maintain the Henson magic and the Muppet spirit.
Segel is, for the most part, nowhere to be found in this second go-round that is once again directed by James Bobin and co-penned by both Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, Stoller being Segel's collaborator on the 2011 film. While The Muppets Most Wanted doesn't have quite the magic and affection of its predecessor, it's still a welcome addition to the year's family friendly films and a fine follow-up to The Muppets.
The film kicks off almost precisely where its predecessor left off, though Jason Segel and Amy Adams aren't here this time around but, let's be honest, The Muppets are ultimately about The Muppets. The film kicks off with the usual tongue-in-cheek glibness we've come to expect from The Muppets with a rowsing version of "We're Doing a Sequel," a tune that will likely make both adults and children smile. In this film, The Muppets are heading off on a world theatrical tour at the urging of their rather obviously mischievious manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais). Just as things are starting to take off, Kermit the Frog finds himself mercilessly cast off courtesy of an evil doppelganger who goes by the name of Constantine (Matt Vogel) and he gets locked up in a Siberian gulag governed by the matronly Nadya (Tina Fey). Of course, Dominic has his hand in the entire affair and staying one step ahead of a bumbling Clouseau styled Interpol Investigator (Ty Burrell).
As it should be, The Muppets Most Wanted has a paper thin plot surrounded by an abundance of good-hearted humor and genuinely entertaining laughs and a freakishly long line of cameos that are energetic, inspired and just plain fun. In fact, while this second film might lack the nostalgic affection of the first film it is very likely a funnier film with music by Bret McKenzie that is catchier and much more likely to be sung by the kiddoes on the way home. There are times, however, when Bobin aims the film just a bit too high and acknowledges, perhaps, that the film's greatest appeal may be with adults who embrace it as one of their treasured childhood memories. Fans of the Swedish Chef and Beaker will likely be disappointed at their minimal participation here, but for the most part The Muppets Most Wanted tapes into the late 70's Muppets vibe that was just a tad bit edgier and maybe even a bit darker.
The Muppets Most Wanted is chaotic silliness, but it's also filled with spot-on puns, culturally relevant humor, and it's a bit more devoted than its predecessor to keeping the Muppets themselves front and center rather than their human counterparts.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic