Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

13 Aug

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Smith’s Verdict: ***
Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Muppets Most Wanted” is the latest in the re-invigorated Muppet franchise, following 2011’s “The Muppets” which welcomed Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fonzie, and others back after years in limbo, and I wouldn’t mind getting more of these every few years or so. “Muppets Most Wanted” is more enjoyable than the 2011 film and about as charming as that and the best Muppet movies. It’s cute, funny, and giddily engaging; fun for kids and adults, particularly those who share fond nostalgia for the Muppets.

“Muppets Most Wanted” has what you expect from a Muppet movie—the Muppets, songs, a quick pace, visual gags, suitable humor, and lots of brief cameos. The story is a take on the spy-movie genre and the mistaken-identity concept, as it turns out there’s a criminal on the loose who resembles Kermit the Frog in every way except for a mole on his cheek. This is Constantine, who has escaped from a maximum security Gulag and has a plan in mind. His plan is to kidnap Kermit, sticks a fake mole on his cheek to remove his identity, and replaces him as Kermit is thrown into the Gulag. Constantine, disguised as Kermit, fools the other Muppets (barely) as they embark on their world tour. The world tour is a ruse for Constantine and his sidekick Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who acts as the Muppets’ manager, to steal as many valuable objects as possible before reaching to carry out a plan to steal England’s Crown Jewels.

Meanwhile, Kermit is locked inside the Gulag with no way of escape, as it is run by a crazed stage-obsessed dominatrix (played by Tina Fey, sporting a Russian accent) who winds up falling in love with Kermit…weird. Somehow he has to either break out of prison or patiently wait for his friends to figure out what’s happened and come and save him.

The story for “Muppets Most Wanted” is the least interesting element, but I guess you don’t see these movies for the stories because they’re equally unexceptional. This one doesn’t even make much sense (for example, why would the bad guy use lots of money to bribe newspaper reporters to write positive reviews for the shows while he’s also stealing lots of money and valuables during the shows?). What makes it fun to watch is the quick humor, which is kid-friendly but adults can laugh at it too. There are funny lines, funny visuals, funny use of cameos (for example, who doesn’t love to watch Danny Trejo, as a rough prisoner, sing a solo in “A Chorus Line?”), and a very funny subplot involving Sam Eagle’s CIA agent teaming up with Ty Burrell’s Pink Panther-like French detective and going through the usual buddy-movie situations. Watching these two together makes me laugh each time they showed up again. I hope they return together again in the next Muppet film.

I know that may be vague in explaining the comedic elements in this review, but one of the downsides to reviewing a comedy is omitting references to what’s funny, so that audiences can see and laugh for themselves. I can’t even go into the musical numbers, except to say that they’re purposefully overdone for us to laugh at.

It’s good to see these familiar faces again, and the Muppet performers do great jobs at supplying voiceover work for them (though I’m still a little thrown off when I hear the new voice given to Miss Piggy). They make these likable, appealing, funny puppets come to life. And speaking of which, it’s about time Kermit stands up to Miss Piggy who is too quick to be in love with him. (You’ll see.)

Ricky Gervais gets the least funny material to work with, despite one funny musical number in which he dances while acknowledging he’s only a sidekick to a frog. Ty Burrell is funny, as I said. Tina Fey, as the crazed Gulag warden, is freaking hilarious! I could listen to her yell with that over-the-top Russian accent for hours.

“Muppets Most Wanted” is as good as the other good Muppet movies. There’s enough to laugh at, even more to smile at, and it makes for an enjoyable, cute comedy to go see.

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