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Muppets Most Wanted

What She said:

She

As Muppets Most Wanted so clearly states in its early moments, movie sequels are often not nearly as good as their predecessors.   However, I can tell that the people behind this 2014 follow-up to 2011’s The Muppets worked as hard as they possibly could to ensure that this film would buck that trend.  While I’m not sure Muppets Most Wanted is quite as fresh, lively, or cohesive as the original, the movie is still very funny, and for those who know and love the cast of puppet characters, you’ll likely enjoy this follow-up film.

The movie picks up immediately following the events of The Muppets with the fuzzy crew not knowing what to do next.  A somewhat shifty character named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) approaches them and says that they should take their show on the road—an international tour.  As his last name suggests, Dominic is in it for all the wrong reasons, and when he assumes the role of Muppet manager, bad things start to happen.  A criminal mastermind named Constantine, who also bears a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog, aside from a prominent mole, breaks out of a Siberian Gulag, and with the help of Dominic he has Kermit arrested and replaces him among The Muppets. 

Muppets Most Wanted

Why, you may wonder, would he even want to do this?  Well, it’s because Constantine and Dominic are planning to steal the Crown Jewels of England, and to do so they must complete a series of tasks across Europe.  They’re basically using The Muppet Show as their cover to covertly hit a few cities, rob prominent locations of what they need, and move on to the next city without detection. 

Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and CIA Agent Sam Eagle are on the case, although Napoleon is a stark contrast to Sam Eagle’s more hardline work ethic.  They begin to suspect The Muppets behind the string of thefts, but are not entirely clear as to who among them is the main culprit.  In the meantime, Walter, Fozzie Bear, and Animal realize what is going on and set off the retrieve the real Kermit.  The question is whether or not Kermit can escape from the Gulag and return to The Muppets in time to save them from the wrath of Constantine.  These are desperate times, as Constantine is looking to marry and eventually do away with Miss Piggy.

The premise of this film, while pretty basic, has a tendency to get lost as the sequence of events unfolds and the viewer is hopped around from location to location.  The plot is a bit overdone to the point of actually being unexciting.  However, what’s lost in plot is made up for in general humor.  I found much of this movie to be funny, very funny.  And that is what I’ve come to expect most from The Muppets—good, innocent humor and fun.

Muppets Most Wanted

The film features several musical sequences, some of which are better than others.  A couple were catchy enough that I genuinely enjoyed them.  Others were a little painful, as neither the melody nor the voices singing them were particularly good.  I do give the film credit for trying to weave in musical segments, and for the general look and feel of the movie, an homage to the 60s heist film.  The visuals of this movie, while often a bit hokey, are fun.  Don’t expect the special effects to be stunning here.  We’re talking about puppets, green screens, and marginally bad CGI.  But it comes together into something that is par for the course when it comes to Muppet movies.

Love it or hate it, Muppets Most Wanted is a whose who of notable actors and musicians making cameos.  You’ll see everyone from Tony Bennett to Sean “Diddy” Combs to James McAvoy, and even the queen of Vegas entertainment, Celine Dion.  This might bother some viewers—it’s a gross representation of the commercial popularity of The Muppets.  But these cameos are also done in a way that’s light and funny.  I didn’t mind it, although there were times that it was somewhat distracting trying to search scenes for recognizable faces.

Overall, I did enjoy Muppets Most Wanted.  It’s  probably not the best sequel out there, nor is it the best Muppets movie, but it’s a lot of fun and filled with spot-on humor.

Thumbs up.

What He said:

He
Muppets Most Wanted

The previous Muppets movie (review here) deals with the title characters’ declining popularity in recent years and their subsequent rise to fame by the end of the film. By the end of the movie, they put on a big show to let people know they are still around. It’s a huge success, but it’s still only one show. They aren’t sure what to do next to keep the momentum going.

Almost as if on cue, enter Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) appears and makes the gang an offer. Mr. Badguy claims to be a manager at an internationally renowned talent agency. If this seems like it is too good to be true, that’s because it is. Mr. Badguy is a jewel thief and partner of master criminal, Constantine.
Constantine is the world’s number one thief and a pretty bad dude from top-to-bottom. He is smart, cunning, immoral, and has some killer moves. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to Kermit the Frog. Constantine has recently broken out of a Siberian Gulag. He kidnaps Kermit and takes his place amongst the Muppets. He also frames Kermit for Crimes he committed.

Kermit is sent to the very Gulag where Constantine escaped from. He makes several escape attempts, but they are thwarted by the a high-ranking guard named Nadya. Nadya (Tina Fey) has her own agenda. She seems to really want to capture Constantine, but when Kermit convinces her he’s been framed, she still doesn’t care. So, it would seem Kermit is stuck in a Siberian prison for the time being.

Muppets Most Wanted

Animal is the only one of the Muppets who realizes something is off; despite Constantine’s less-than-convincing Kermit impression. He convinces Fozzie and Walter (new Muppet from the last movie) to go on a mission to him to discover the truth.

Meanwhile, as the Muppets tour Europe, Constantine and Badguy break into various places and steal extremely valuable items.

Hot on their trail is Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and Sam Eagle, who is playing a CIA agent. Due to his role in Modern Family, I had already thought Ty Burrell was a very funny man. He is also quite amusing – though it’s a much different type of role – in Dawn of the Dead. But man was he funny in this. Whoever decided to cast him as a snooty French cop and pair him with an American cop – who also happens to be a Muppet – did their homework. The running gags with these two were hilarious.

Oh, and there’s also a subplot of Kermit and Mrs. Piggy finally getting married. After years of pressure, Kermit has reluctantly agreed to marry his gal. Well, sort of. As usual, she is pushing him into doing it.

I saw the previous installment in theaters when it came out. It was the first Muppet movie in years and was meant to bring the franchise back to relevance. I only saw it once and don’t remember enough about all the details to do a direct comparison. I remember liking it quite a bit. I think the only problem I had with it was that I thought the performance by Chris Cooper as the villain was a little bizarre. Some of the jokes fell flat and the performance was a little strange. I think that movie had a lot of big laughs. I know it was a bigger hit with critics and audience than this movie, but I thought this movie was arguably just as funny. I can’t do a direct comparison of which one I laughed at more, but I do know I really had no problem with this movie at all. It might not have gotten the same reviews or made as much money as The Muppets, but it was just as entertaining. I’m not sure why people didn’t go see it. I guess the novelty of bringing them back to the big screen wore off? That’s a shame, because this movie was really quite funny.

Muppets Most Wanted

Walter (Peter Linz) was a brand new character in the last movie. He’s become a permanent fixture. I’m glad. I like him. He didn’t play as prominent of a role, but this also wasn’t story. He was still one of the most prominent supporting characters. I thought they did a good job of having him still fairly involved without making him the main character again. He’s a likeable little guy.

One thing that really made me happy was that they brought the Swedish Chef back! I always thought this character was hilarious and was bummed he didn’t have a single scene in the last movie. Good call by whomever decided to bring him back to the big screen.

Ricky Gervais can be a little annoying in standup or as a host, but as an actor, he can be pretty damn funny. I liked his villain much better than Chris Cooper’s from the previous movie. He was simply funnier to me. Great job by whoever casted him. This kind of role suits him well.

Most of the human characters did really well. As I mentioned earlier, Ty Burrell was hilarious. That character was very cleverly written and performed in a most stereotypical, but amusing, way. His “chemistry” with Sam Eagle was brilliant. I would love to see those two together again in a future movie. Tina Fey is a comedy veteran, and like Gervais, really well-suited for this kind of movie. Celine Dion, Ray Liotta (yes, Ray Liotta), James McAvoy, and Danny Trejo are some of the other faces you will recognize in cameo or background roles. All good choices.

The Muppets are  a throwback to a different time – a time when these characters had both movies and a weekly show. There isn’t enough of this kind of humor on TV or in movies anymore. It’s innocent without being outright corny, like Full House or Family Matters.  This is suitable for everyone and in a way that’s not boring or insulting to adults intelligence.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on August 24, 2014.

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