Muppets Most Wanted – 2014

Director James Bobin
Starring Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey
Written by Nicolas Stoller & Bobin

I never thought I needed to see Ricky Gervais break into song, talking about being #2. I never thought I needed to see Tina Fey pretend she had a really bad Russian accent. Never did I wonder what it would be like to see Ty Burrell as anything other than a clueless American dad. Then again, I would never have known at least some of Charles Grodin’s brilliance had I never seen him as a lech in The Great Muppet Caper. Nothing in this film approaches his level though.

The start of Muppets Most Wanted takes place at the conclusion of their last film. Given its relative success they realize that the cameras have not stopped rolling, and they are in allowed to make a sequel.  Sure, sequels usually aren’t as good, they surmise, but then, it’s not like it could be as bad as The Godfather III. Watching them do the first of many sub par musical tunes, we know that this might be one of the sequels they talk about.  But then, what’s the worst that could happen? They already did Muppet Treasure Island.

This time around, The Muppets are not in any danger, but it doesn’t stop Kermit from being the same old wet blanket he always offers. His worries are countered to the group by new manager Dominic Badguy.  Badguy convinces the Muppets to go on a world tour that coincides with the rest of the plot. Meanwhile, Constantine, his evil doppelgänger, escapes from The Gulag.  That he is partners with Badguy  makes it convenient for the tour to meet up in Berlin, switch places with Kermit and then continue the tour in places that coincide with Constantine and Badguy’s mission to steal the crown jewels. It would have been nice if they’d have made a play for the baseball diamond, too.

The best part of the Muppets 2.0 is their self-referential and absurdist humor has been ramped up another level.  Taking a train on a world tour across several bodies of water is accepted as easily as a tiny car that’s been outlawed in several parts of the EU for being too big. Miss Piggy seems the inspiration to Celine Dion’s career, so a duet seems delightfully awful. Then there is the scene with Rizzo and Robin.

There comes a point, though, where the kids can’t get young enough to accept some aspects of the story. When Tina Fey’s Nadya shows her secret shrine to a frog, my 11-year old daughter volunteers:

“That’s stupid.”

And I cannot disagree with her.

It’s nice to see certain minor characters get more play. Sam The Eagle gets some important screen time opposite Burrel’s Interpol agent. Animal gets an actual plot line, even if he is sharing it with two other characters. On the other hand, I really do miss Pepé the King Prawn the way he was in Muppets from Space.

There is nothing in the world of entertainment any thing close to what the Muppets offer. They are in a class all their own. This may not be  their best work, but it’s not bad at all. Em said, near the end:

“I like this movie.  It’s not as good as the first one.”

She means the one with Amy Adams, of course.

To keep the franchise going, however, they need to do better.

(***1/2 out of *****)

Em’s rating (****1/2 out of *****)

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