Quite simply, if you love Muppets, you’ll love Muppets Most Wanted, the movie. If you have doubts about the wonderfulness of sequels, there’s even a caveat emptor in the opening number to reduce expectations, but like the rest of the songs, dialogue and cavortings it’s meant more in jest than as a warning. Expect Muppetian fun and you’ll not be disappointed.
This new sequel to The Muppets (2011) is produced by Walt Disney Studios and directed by James Bobin, who is also the co-writer along with Nicholas Stolier. In fact most of the production crew remains the same, with the notable exception of Jason Segal, who co-wrote and starred in The Muppets. However the music and songs by Christopher Beck and Bret McKenzie are every bit as cunning and entertaining as anything that has gone before.
The plot involves Muppets on a world tour and master criminals using them as cover for nefarious schemes. It seems Kermit has a double in the underworld – Constantine the Russian frog looks just like our green friend except for a mole on his lip – and he’s aiding and abetting the real crook while Kermit is mistakenly locked up in his place.
Ricky Gervais is outrageously good in the role of Dominic Badguy (pronounce it ‘BAAHDjee’ – it’s French) as a road agent con man who woos the troop with promises of fame and fortune in the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. Only Kermit is suspicious of Badguy’s blandishments, but he’s stuck in a Siberian prison camp while Badguy and Constantine sack assorted cities including London, Dublin and Madrid and Berlin. Ultimate goal: the theft of England’s Crown Jewells.
Of course the opportunities for slapstick and shenanigans are unlimited, and the writers take advantage of them all, with a generous (some critics say over-generous) dollop of cameo appearances from a score of famous faces and voices. One favourite will surely be the prison warden Nadya, played just right by Tina Fey, and another the very Clouseau-like Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon, played with a perfectly droll touch by Ty Burrell.
Certainly much of the humour in songs and repartee will go right over the heads of young kids, but there’s plenty of good old-fashioned Muppetty stuff to keep them (and all of us) highly entertained. Older viewers will have to pay attention or they’ll miss some of the best lines – sometimes they’re barely veiled satire, sometimes not veiled at all, but it’s always done for laughs, and after all, it’s the Muppets.
Those universally beloved characters don’t change hardly at all, thank goodness. In fact it’s the phony Kermit who kinda blows it when he behaves out of character for the real Kermit. The rest of the gang starts to wonder when Constantine-as-Kermit says they can do anything they want including uncontrolled drumming. And of course there’s a happy ending or it wouldn’t be a Muppet movie.
There is some concern expressed by reviewers about the timing, with Russia and the U.S. not exactly at a high point in their international relationship. What with a blatantly satirized Russian gulag as part of the movie scenery, what’s hilarious to Western audiences might not be so funny to Putin.