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Review: Muppets Most Wanted

March 21, 2014

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Muppets Most Wanted PosterThe first thing audiences will see when attending Muppets Most Wanted is Party Central, the latest short from Pixar.  Expanding on the wonderful characters of Oozma Kappa that were first introduced in last year’s Monsters University, this is a hilarious party film that makes great use of the brief running time.  The ending is hysterical.

“We’re doing a sequel,” Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and the gang sing at the start of Muppets Most Wanted, a genuinely inspired sequence that morphs into something out of a Busby Berkeley musical and even includes a brilliant Ingmar Bergman sight gag.  This is easily one of the best scenes in the film, an upfront admission that “the sequel’s never quite as good.”

And this followup to The Muppets clearly doesn’t reach the same brilliant heights as its delightful 2011 predecessor, or the original classics.  But at least returning director James Bobin acknowledges this right off the bat, allowing us to just sit back and enjoy this less focused but still fun sequel, which opens today courtesy of Disney.

Together again (again) after the events of the first film, and with Walter now firmly part of their team, the Muppets decide to take their show on the road across Europe, naively hiring the scheming Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) as their new manager.  Things takes a turn for the worse when Kermit is replaced by Constantine, “the world’s most dangerous frog,” who is using their shows as a coverup for elaborate jewel heists, putting agents Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and Sam the Eagle on their trail.  Animal immediately takes a dislike to the “BAD FROG,” but the others are a little slower on the uptake, as Kermit is left imprisoned at a Russian gulag run by the seemingly strict Nadya (Tina Fey).

For me, The Muppets was a brilliant comeback film that even cracked my top ten list for 2011, a joyous movie that made me fall in love with the characters all over again, while offering a nostalgic reminder of why they meant so much to me as a kid.  Although Muppets Most Wanted lacks a lot of the heart that Jason Segel and Amy Adams brought with them the first time around, this sequel seems to have more modest ambitions.  This is a film that sets out simply to entertain, and that’s not a bad thing, with the sometimes episodic nature of the screenplay allowing for some inspired sight gags and clever jokes.

Tina Fey and Ty Burrell are particularly funny highlights of the human cast as they gamely play off their felt counterparts, and there are a ton of celebrity cameos from familiar faces and voices in Muppets Most Wanted, some of which go by quite quickly.  Ricky Gervais is sometimes a bit of an annoying presence in the film, with a more cynical style of humour than the Muppets are usually known for, but I think this is also a virtue of how his character is written.  The script sometimes feels loose and stretches the running time close to two hours, but things can be really funny when the film hits its stride.

Aside from that delightful opening sequence, the musical numbers in Muppets Most Wanted aren’t able to match the excellent songs from the first film, which included such gems as the Oscar-winning “Man or Muppet.”  But save for a duet between Constantine and Ricky Gervais that leaves much to be desired, there are still some solid musical numbers courtesy of original songwriter Bret McKenzie.  This includes “Something So Right,” a bighearted performance between Miss Piggy and a surprise guest that provides another one of the best scenes, and “I’ll Get You What You Want” which has grown on me since seeing the film last week.

“Let’s give it a shot,” Kermit sings during that aforementioned opening number, “all we need now is a half decent plot.”  Although this is a noisier and more hyperactive film that lacks the focused story and moving messages of their last outing, occasionally feeling like a studio product, this sequel still offers its fair share of simple pleasures.  As a lifelong fan of Jim Henson’s creations, I had fun with Muppets Most Wanted.  This is an easily enjoyable way to spend time with these beloved classic characters, a film that modestly sets out to entertain and ultimately does just that.

The one and only Miss Piggy was at the swanky Shangri-La hotel in Toronto this past Tuesday to address the media at a very special press conference, which she handled like a true superstar.  I had a lot of fun attending the event, which was gamely hosted by Richard Crouse, and below I have included the official video from Walt Disney Studios Canada.  My favourite quote?  “I’ll be anybody’s icon.”  They seem to have edited out the initial context for this quote and a couple of questions afterward, but you can read about those parts in Norm Wilner’s recap right here.  Enjoy!

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