‘Muppets Most Wanted:’ Kermit the Fraud

The Muppet movie sequel, which isn’t really a sequel but another installment in a long line of Muppet movies, lets itself off the hook in the very beginning with a cheeky line in a song about how sequels are never quite as good as the original. It is amusing and meta, as the Muppets always are, and the movie remains that way throughout. However, I couldn’t help but compare it to the first one (or, you know, the last, most recent, Jason Segel-y one), and in Muppets Most Wanted, the songs are a little lackluster, the plot is a little tiresome, and while the jokes are just as strong, there simply aren’t enough.

Most of what’s lacking can be attributed to an absence of heart. Heart in the plot lines and heart and commitment from the main actors, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey. All had funny moments, all were entertaining throughout, but there was a level of disconnect there, one that makes you appreciate how difficult it must be to engage fully with puppets on screen. But each of their performances is coated with a layer of reluctance and timidity. This is something that Jason Segel and Amy Adams blew out of the water in The Muppets. There was no distinction between puppet and human, felt and flesh. Gervais, Burrell, and Fey couldn’t quite pull that off.

The plot also prevents the movie from getting anywhere emotionally satisfying. The most dangerous frog in the world, Constantine, who looks remarkably like Kermit, save for a brown mole on the side of his frog face, escapes from a gulag in Siberia, Russia. Shortly thereafter, Kermit and the Muppets are approached by Dominic Badguy (Gervais), Constantine’s secret partner in crime (literally), and Dominic pitches that he manage the Muppets on a world tour. Kermit isn’t so sure, but the rest of Muppets are on board, so he agrees. Then, Constantine ambushes Kermit, glues a mole on his face, and Constantine poses as Kermit while the real Kermit is dragged away to the Russian gulag, which is managed by the hard-ass with a hidden lust for frogs and musical numbers, Nadya (Fey). What follows is a string of terrible Muppet shows that serve to cover the heists of Constantine and Dominic (criminal alias: the Lemur).

It’s a lot of plot, a lot of burglary/heist/detective moments, lots of bad guy scheming and prison hijinks, but not a lot of the Muppets trying to be the Muppets, attempting to keep themselves together when there’s something clearly wrong with the way Kermit’s acting. Toward the end of the movie is when the Muppetry ignites and they band together to save the real Kermit, but it takes a while to get to that point.

There are cameos galore, of course, some absolutely wonderful, some pretty good, and some way too small. There’s a top notch Danny Trejo joke, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it James McAvoy appearance, and a magnificent Celine Dion cameo that lasts way too long for the average person but just long enough for the moviegoer who may or may not have loved Celine Dion so much as a small child that she donned a princess dress, lip synced and danced dramatically to “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and got someone to videotape the whole thing. Whoever that is…………….…what a weirdo………………………………………………………………………………….

Anyway, there’s a lot to love about Muppets Most Wanted; it’s definitely fun. It’s perhaps not quite as classic as other Muppet movies, maybe not a home run, but it’s a solid triple. Ugh, baseball analogies. Whoever made that analogy is probably the same person who lost her s**t by the fourth time Celine Dion magically appeared on screen in the most elegant, beautiful way ever to sing with Miss Piggy because she is the most talented, gorgeous, majestic person ever with the voice of an angel.

Grade: B+

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