Latest Muppet movie misses magic of the others

By Christopher K. Conner

Without context the eighth feature film of the Muppets franchise might sound like a greatest hits album. “The Muppets Most Wanted” is in fact a sequel to 2011’s “The Muppets” and picks up right where that previous flick left off with the reunited muppets wondering what to do after that film’s ending.

Realizing that they are now producing a sequel, the gathered misfits perform a number celebrating and poking fun at the idea of Hollywood sequels. Unfortunately, this number might be the high point for the film. From that point on, the Muppets hire Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) to help Kermit manage a world tour for the group.

As the other Muppets begin to relish the Dominic’s encouragement compare to Kermit’s practicality, Kermit starts to feel unneeded and unappreciated. At his lowest point, Dominic suggests Kermit walk the streets of Berlin to clear his head and gives him a map to follow.

What Kermit doesn’t realize is that Dominic is working for the recently escaped Constantine. Very similar in appearance to Kermit, Constantine is known as the worlds top criminal and the most dangerous frog. In the fog, Constantine glues a copy of his characteristic mole to Kermit and disappears. The locals recognize Kermit as the wanted Constantine, leading to him being shipped back to Siberia and the gulag Constantine recently escaped from.

Constantine covers his mole with green makeup and slips into the role of Kermit. With the exception of Animal, who can smell the difference, the rest of the muppets accept Constantine. Meanwhile, Kermit is expecting his friends to notice his disappearance and come to rescue him at any time.

Using The Muppet Show as cover for their activities, Dominic (who works under the crime name “The Lemur”) and Constantine begin their plot to steal the crown jewels of England, following the trail of the last criminal to nearly succeed in the task. While Dominic does the bulk of the work, Constantine demeans him and continues to point out that Dominic is second on the most wanted list, not first like Constantine.

Once their crimes catch the attention of authorities, Sam Eagle and Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) team up to pursue them. Together they begin the pursue the Muppets as suspects, but seem unable to produce any kind of proof, since they are on stage in front of sell-out crowds during the crimes.

After a number of days, the gulag warden Nadya (Tina Fey) seems to accept that Kermit isn’t Constantine, but is unwilling to let him leave. She convinces Kermit that his friends have forgotten him and forces him to take over direction of the annual Gulag Review. While Kermit is creating a show composed of criminals, the rest of the Muppets are starting to realize something is wrong with their Kermit, but refuse to accept it because the Kermit is giving them everything they want.

When Walter follows Dominic to a rendezvous in Dublin he discovers that Badguy really is a bad guy. On his own, Fozzie discovers the similarity between Kermit and Constantine and teams up with Walter to try and prove that Kermit has been replaced. Before they get the chance they are discovered by Constantine and have to flee with Animal’s help.

The trio decide that the only one that can fix the situation is the real Kermit and they set out to find him. The question becomes, will they find the frog before Dominic and Constantine escape with the crown jewels and possibly destroy the Muppets in the process.

“The Muppets Most Wanted” has a few clever jokes and a smidgen of their standard self-depreciating humor, but overall this film is missing some of the magic and chemistry of the better Muppet movies. Because so much of the film features the relationship between Dominic and Constantine, as well as Sam Eagle and Jean Pierre, screen time for the more popular members of the Muppets cast is limited.

While there are homages to the original Muppet Show and the variety show format, there isn’t a lot of variety in the film. There is some singing and some dancing, but the songs are dull and not particularly funny. “The Muppets Most Wanted” seems to be going through the motions with little of the charm and enthusiasm I was expecting.

Fearing that maybe I was expecting too much, I asked Leah and Patrick what they thought of it. Leah pronounced the film “okay” while Patrick didn’t like it at all. I guess we’ll have to get out the DVDs of “The Muppet Show” and cleanse this one from our minds. I hope this isn’t the direction Disney is planning for the franchise.

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