Friday, March 21, 2014

Movie Review: 'Muppets Most Wanted'

**** 1/2 out of 5
112 minutes
Rated PG for some mild action
Walt Disney Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: 'Muppets Most Wanted' on Blogcritics.

Now that the world is safe for Muppet mayhem, thanks to Jason Segel, getting Disney to reboot the beloved franchise with 2012’s The Muppets, the question for the sequel is how does it measure up? Without the assistance of Segel this time around, director James Bobin has returned, along with co-writer Nicholas Stoller and Oscar-winning songwriter Bret McKenzie, to deliver Muppets Most Wanted. It’s a follow-up that may not reach the bar set by their last outing, but is still outstanding entertainment. Young or old, you’d have to be a grumpy curmudgeon to not leave the theater with a smile on your face. This is still miles better than Muppets from Space, which will sadly always remain the weakest link in the Muppets canon.

MUPPETS MOST WANTEDNow that the music has been played, the lights have been lit, and the Muppets are a viable franchise again, a sequel has been ordered by the studio. Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) takes “The Muppet Show” under his wing and talks them into going on a world tour. Kermit (Steve Whitmire) is skeptical as always, but the gang convinces even him to take the world by storm. Meanwhile, “the world’s most dangerous frog” Constantine (Matt Vogel) has just escaped from a Siberian prison and a case of mistaken identity gets Kermit thrown in prison while Constantine takes his place. Turns out, Badguy lives up to his name as he goes on a crime spree with Constantine while touring Europe. Can Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and Sam Eagle (Eric Jacobson) catch the thieves? Will Kermit finally escape from the clutches of prison ward Nadya (Tina Fey)? And who is the angel-voiced maximum security singer?

Call me biased, but I can’t help but love anything Muppet-related, warts and all. Most Wanted is a pseudo-remake of The Great Muppet Caper, but goes about it much better than J.J. Abrams tried to remake Khan. Filled to the gills with possibly more cameos than the previous Muppet films combined, they never feel forced. Visual gags and verbal puns are slung with gleeful abandon. While this may be the longest Muppet film yet, Bobin keeps the pace racing along, even if at least one plot thread is basically shrugged off in the end. McKenzie’s songs may not be quite as spectacular, but a true stand out features Constantine serenading Miss Piggy (Jacobson again) where he finally gets to let his Conchords freak flag fly. Muppets Most Wanted lives up to the Jim Henson legacy giving new life to a new generation of kids. If my friends’ daughter was of any indication, thankfully the Muppets won’t be going anywhere. She wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over, and so did I.

*Be sure to get there early so you don’t miss the hilarious Monsters University short: “Party Central.”

Photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

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