2011’s The Muppets came with a big question mark for most fans over whether any post-Henson treatment could be up to snuff. As it stands the movie managed to capture a closely studied and caring revival of the franchise. The creative team behind the movie fought for the old Muppet magic against fan doubts, the financial question of a neglected franchise, and even Frank Oz’s dismissal. Nevertheless the movie not only managed to win the acceptance of fans, but also has managed its first sequel.
Muppets Most Wanted returns The Muppets director James Bobin and co-writer Nicolas Stoller, and switches out the warm and quirky presences of Amy Adams and Jason Segal with slightly sharper-edged comedians Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey. Those are promising indications going into a movie that starts right out with the Muppets’ surprise and slight confusion at the metajoke that they’ve been selected for a sequel, which they sing and dance about being not as good as the original (and also take some time to remind you that many other movies came before). Whereas the Muppets have always been self-aware, this metajoke is also laced with the slight sarcasm of the costar comedians.
Darker hues descend as a froggy criminal mastermind named Constantine (who looks just like Kermit, save for a big mole and sour face) engineers a break-out from a wintery gulag somewhere in Siberia. This intro is madcap and frantic, and from there the movie whisks its way into a meeting between the fleece troupe and Ricky Gervais playing a one “Dominic Badguy” (the latter is pronounced ‘Bahd-gwee,’ though the character may be lying). Dominic offers the Muppets an opportunity to go on a European tour, a trip Kermit is somewhat hesitant about but quickly drowned out by the enthusiasm of his friends.
Before the scene even ends Dominic is revealed to be working for Constantine on a scheme to set the Muppets up for a great heist. Dominic is Constantine’s ‘Number 2’, a status made much of and bluntly by the egomaniacal Constantine. It’s not long before Constantine manages to dispatch Kermit as himself back to the gulag, and wind his way into the troupe under the claim that his strained Russian accent is ‘a cold.’ The Muppets, too excited by the new allowances they have for their acts and the suspiciously sold-out venues on their tour, hardly notice anything is amiss, and the intricate workings of the heist begin.
Now it’s up to Kermit to find a way to escape passed Tina Fey’s gulag security guard with a second comical Russian accent (and a crush on Kermit), while the ever wide-eyed Walter begins to suspect Constantine and his comical Russian accented attempt at a comical Kermit accent, all while the crew is chased down by a strange partnership between Sam the Eagle, the comical American-accented CIA agent, and Jean Pierre Napoleon, the comical French-accented Interpol agent.
Am I going too fast for you? Because this movie goes fast. Jaunty musical numbers cover up demolitions. Strained comical accents talk over each other. And Kermit spends most of the playtime either getting physically yanked and jerked around or yelling in frustration to be heard. After an hour and change, Muppets Most Wanted begins to make you wonder if Bobin and Stoller forgot to add the Muppets’ brand of introspection to this otherwise monotonously bombastic movie.
Luckily the movie eventually finds its way (possibly a little late in the game), and it’s also hilarious. Despite its loudness, Muppets Most Wanted manages to plaster a big dopey grin on your face, and the payoff is that the frenzied antics and comical German, Spanish, Irish, and English accented location jumping eventually lead the gang to realize they should probably stop talking, settle down, and listen to each other once in a while. Eh, form follows function, possibly.
It’s another crowd pleaser. Hopefully, however, the next film will have a lot more breathing room and few less comical accents. And by the way, Frank Oz still thinks it sucks.