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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Muppets: Most Wanted Movie Review

After the success of "The Muppets" in 2011, a sequel was inevitable. Technically, as some of the characters point out in this film, this is the eighth "Muppet" movie, but "Muppets: Most Wanted" takes up where the previous film left off. The opening of this film shows "The End" spelled out in fireworks from the previous film, and what follows after the credits rolled: the extras walk away, the set is struck, and the Muppets wonder what to do next. A sequel of course, and the first musical number poses the question of what they should do for a follow-up. The answer? A World Tour!

Dominic Badguy -- "it's pronounced Badgey!" (Ricky Gervais) -- steps in as a seedy name-dropping manager who convinces the Muppets that a global tour is just what they need to capitalize on their renewed fame. In reality, this is just a cover for a fiendish plot to steal the crown jewels. While the Muppets are filling halls in Europe, Kermit is kidnapped and replaced with the world's most dangerous Frog, Constantine, recently busted out of a Siberian Gulag. During the tour, Constantine and Badguy break into various museums picking up clues that reveal the secret of stealing the crown jewels. And how do they plan to get into the Tower of London? A wedding of course! Yes, the pig and the frog are finally tying the knot, and they've managed to snag the Tower as their wedding venue.  But will Miss Piggy end up marrying the wrong frog?

Old-time Muppets fans will appreciate many of the gags and inside jokes. And many of the classic characters see a decent amount of action, not just Kermit and Miss Piggy (of course), but Fozzie, Gonzo, Sam the Eagle, the Swedish Chef, Bunsen Honeydew and Beeker, heckling old men Waldorf and Statler. Personally I was happy that Animal (one of my personal favorites) gets a fair amount of screen time, including a 3-hour drum solo (not in real time, sadly). Yes, the gang is all here, but this time, the magic is somehow missing. Jokes fall a bit flat. Musical numbers lack originality (one was quite literally ripped off from the last film, with the word "again" added) and cultural stereotypes are taken just past the point of being funny into being offensive.

As usual, the stars are on parade here. Tina Fey does a passable job as the Gulag's singing warden with a crush on Kermit. Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo put in animated performances as Gulag inmates. Josh Groban, Stanley Tucci, Lady Gaga, Christoph Waltz and Salma Hayek all ham it up, either in cameos or playing themselves as guests on the road show. We even get to see Usher play, well, an usher at the long-anticipated nuptial ceremony. And while these cameos are fun to watch, none can save the film from what it is: a plodding trip to nowhere.

The highlight for me (and my two kids who accompanied me to the screening) were the Muppet babies. These creepy cabbage patch-looking little Muppets practically stole the show as tiny jewel thieves. Sadly, their presence on screen is far too brief.

I'm sure some die-hard fans will enjoy the ride, and the film definitely has some funny moments. But I don't think these Muppets will be most wanted at the box office this season.

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