Saturday, March 22, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

The revitalization of The Muppets continues in Muppets Most Wanted, a sequel that (just as The Great Muppet Caper did in 1981) puts Kermit (Steve Whitmire) and friends in a caper comedy as a follow-up to an origin story. This time Kermit leads the troupe on a world tour after the success of The Muppets, but the group's new tour manager (Ricky Gervais) is actually the henchman of a master criminal named Constantine who looks almost exactly like a certain kindly green frog. Constantine assumes Kermit's identity, and we're off. There's a plot to steal the Crown Jewels and frame the Muppets, but the heart of Muppets Most Wanted involves Kermit and his friends realizing how much they need each other. James Bobin returns from The Muppets as director, as do co-writer Nicholas Stoller and songwriter Bret McKenzie, and the conception of The Muppets carries over from the last film. Kermit is the reluctant leader of Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and a sprawling family of performers who have to work a living and don't have any guarantee of success. Don't let that description confuse you, there are good jokes here. There's a funny buddy cop routine with Sam the Eagle and a French detective (Ty Burrell) on the trail of Constantine, and some of the funniest scenes involve Kermit in a gulag (run by Tina Fey) putting a group of convicts through their paces in a talent show. It's difficult not to spoil these moments, but after this movie you'll never quite think of Danny Trejo the same way again. The gulag scenes are good fun but I wish Bobin and Stoller had found a way to get Kermit a bit more time with Miss Piggy and his friends. The plot relies quite a it on the suspicions of Walter, who claimed his Muppet identity in the previous film, that the green frog who calls himself "Kermit" for most of the movie isn't who he says he is. I suppose Walter is meant to be our way into the story, but in previous Muppet movies we always had Kermit around for that. If there are more Muppet movies in our future then I think the franchise is in good hands creatively, but a few viewings of the original Muppet Movie are definitely in order.

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