MUPPETS MOST WANTED
By Gary Murray
Starring Rickey Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell
Written by James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller
Directed by James Bobin
Running time 112 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
For those under about 50, the Muppets have been a constant part of their lives. What started as a simple green puppet on a small PBS show for pre-school children has grown into a massive empire of books, toys, television shows and films.
In 1979, The Muppet Movie and the song “The Rainbow Connection” turned Kermit the Frog into an overnight icon. In 2011, The Muppets gave these puppets a second life with Jason Segel writing and starring in what is essentially a re-boot of the franchise. Muppets Most Wanted is the sequel.
The film takes place right after the events of the last movie, on a Hollywood stage. Our cast of characters even sings a song about this being a sequel which includes some major cameos. Then the story takes off.
In a Russian gulag there is a mastermind criminal named Constantine. He is known as the worlds most dangerous frog and he look exactly like Kermit. The only difference is that Constantine has a mole on the side of his face. In a giant action piece, he breaks out of imprisonment.
On the other side of the plot, the Muppets meet Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais). He offers them a world tour and after a small hesitation by Kermit, the Muppets agree. Well, we have to get the plot going along.
The tour leads the cast to different locations in Europe. On a walk, Kermit is attacked and a mole planted on his face. The locals instantly believe he is Constantine and Kermit is arrested. The real Constantine places some stage make-up on his mole and all the other Muppets believe that he is the real Kermit. None of the Muppets notices the different accent.
Our story splits between the real Kermit caught in the Gulag, working to escape and building a relationship with all the other prisoners. He also has to deal with Nadya (Tina Fey) a jailer who has her own nefarious plans for the frog.
The other story is of the rest of the Muppets finding that the fake Kermit doesn’t seem to care about the show as much as he cares about the direction of the tour. Without the stern hand of the real Kermit, The Muppet Show becomes an overblown vanity project. They still sell out and get stellar reviews.
Added to all of this is an investigation of a series of heists, led by Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and a Muppet CIA eagle. They chase the clues between the Muppets and the thefts of museum articles. It all leads to a major heist and the escape of Kermit.
This is joyful film experience. It is fast and funny without feeling rushed. Director and co/writer James Bobin has found the right beat that was sorely missing in the last film. The jokes of the screenplay are fresh and Bobin plays to the strength of Muppet silliness. It is the best Muppet film since the first one, a true classic cinema experience.
As the film splays across the screen, there are cameos upon cameos. Some get single lines and others are become interregnal parts of the plot. No matter how big or small, every human actor has a look on their faces that screams “I’m in a Muppet movie!” like it is the greatest badge of honor.
Tiny Fey and Ricky Gervais are having the time of their lives with the supporting roles. Both get to sing and dance while playing characters that are slightly evil. Each has their own agenda to the plot but both play it to the walls. The idea of using strong comic actors was a brilliant casting choice.
To sum up—Muppets Most Wanted is one of the best films of young 2014 and one of the best reasons to go to the movies. It has all the fun and frolic one expects and more humor than about 80% of recent comedy flicks.
For those Pixar fans, there is a Monsters University short at the beginning of the film. Even though it feels like a deleted scene from the last feature film, it is still a silly little bit of monster fun.