Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce
The eighth big-screen film starring Jim Henson’s wacky, lovable Muppets hit theaters a couple of weeks ago, and for lifelong fans of the franchise, it’s a big win. The 2011 film Muppets, written by and starring Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) was a heartwarming, family-friendly comedy, reviewed here. We liked the 2011 movie but wished for more celebrity cameos. Muppets Most Wanted, written by returning director James Bobin, returns to the kooky, offbeat humor of the original TV variety show and first motion picture, 1979’s The Muppet Movie. And it delivers cameos aplenty.
In a plot somewhat reminiscent of various Muppet films past, this latest movie involves the intrepid troupe on a world tour, hot on the heels of the success of their last venture (meaning, in typical Muppets metafiction style, the 2011 film, or the reprise of the act as depicted in the film, or both, or… well, you’ll get it. It’s the Muppets). Along the way, no one suspects that their new tour manager, Dominic Badguy (“It’s pronounced ‘Badgey'”) (Ricky Gervais, The Office) is moonlighting as the sidekick to a criminal mastermind named Constantine–who also happens to be a dead ringer (almost) for Kermit the Frog. Badguy books the Muppets into surprisingly sold-out gigs all across Europe, connives to have Kermit kidnapped and sent to a Siberian prison, and plots ever-more ambitious jewel heists along the way.
Human leads Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell (Modern Family), and Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live) turn in stellar performances that recall classic costars like Michael Caine (The Muppet Christmas Carol) and Charles Durning (The Muppet Movie). The lively story, er, hops along, darting among Kermit and Fey in Siberia; Burrel and Sam the American Eagle as rival Interpol/CIA agents tracking Constantine; and the Muppets’ efforts to launch a successful European tour, despite lackluster direction from Fake Kermit and zany acts competing for space in the show. Watch for wonderful classic Muppet-show-style performances like Gonzo’s “Indoor Running of the Bulls,” all featuring cameos from actors like Salma Hayek (Wild, Wild West) and Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained).