By James Driscoll // Arts columnist
The Muppets sing about how sequels are hard to pull off and the story just isn’t usually as good as the first in a funny opening tune aptly named, “We’re Doing a Sequel.” Sadly, however, the song ultimately foreshadows what is right and wrong with the film.
The story begins with a tour manager named Dominic Bad Guy, played by Ricky Gervais. Dominic promises the Muppet crew grand tours and great wealth. What they don’t know is Dominic is in cahoots with an evil frog (a Kermit lookalike), named Constantine who has escaped from a prison in Siberia. The duo plans to use the Muppets as decoys as they travel Europe and steal valuable jewels from museums. The evil Kermit also infiltrates the gang by disguising himself as the real Kermit, in order to send everyone’s favorite frog off to jail.
To say the plot is hokey would be putting it nicely. Characters do exactly what you’d expect and the story follows a route that can be predicted within the first ten minutes. Not that there’s anything wrong with an obvious story; it is a family Muppets movie after all. However, the jokes are not quite as good as the previous film, which makes the paper-thin plot less enjoyable to watch.
It’s not that the movie is without humor though. The overarching comedy consists of references to other films; sometimes they work. There is a scene where Kermit tries digging through the wall behind a poster (a la “Shawshank Redemption”) only to be told by a guard that “Everyone tries that one.” Other times, the mocks completely fail. The scene where Dominic breaks into a museum that parodies the “Mission Impossible” laser effects is dumb. The stunt rope dance is trite and the joke offers nothing new to an old idea. As with much of the puns of the film, the Muppets could have been more original.
There are tons of famous cameos in the film. Christopher Waltz dancing the waltz with a Muppet is hilarious, and when one of main characters from “Goodfellas” sings a Boyz to Men song with a prison gang, it’s hard not to smile. There is such an abundance of famous actors in “Muppets,” you’ll start to look for them in every scene.
“The Muppets Most Wanted” is amusing but nothing special. The songs are nice but nothing you’ll be whistling anytime soon. Some of the humor works, but other jokes completely fall apart. The relationship between Kermit and Miss Piggy is always entertaining, but the idea has been done to death.
When the previous film came out, it served as a revitalization of the Muppets brand. Not only were characters true to the original series, but the humor and quirkiness was surprisingly good for a family movie. “Most Wanted” is a solid film but takes a step back in terms of comedy and originality. If you are not a Muppets fan, this film won’t change your mind, and if you are, you’ll get some enjoyment out of it.