In the opening number of Muppets Most Wanted, appropriately titled “They’ve Ordered a Sequel,” the Muppets admit that sequels are usually not quite as good as the original. However, Muppets Most Wanted was a very pleasant surprise in that I enjoyed it more than 2011’s The Muppets, even though the trailers left me, a very casual Muppet fan compared to many, a little skeptical.
Muppets Most Wanted picks up at the very moment The Muppets left off, with the Muppet gang discovering that the cameras are still on, so the studio must want a sequel. The initial song leads into dubious tour manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) offering to take the Muppets on an overseas tour in some of Europe’s most prestigious venues. Kermit is reluctant, only having just restored the Muppet Show, but is pressured by the others, thus entangling him in an international crime caper as soon as they make their first stop. Constantine, the World’s Number One Criminal and his sidekick, Dominic, land Kermit in a Russian prison as Constantine—a dead ringer for Kermit—takes control of the Muppets in order to blame them for his great heists. As Kermit deals with prison guard Nadya (Tina Fey), Interpol agent Jean Pierre (Ty Burrell) and Sam Eagle are on the case, which leads them to tangle with the Muppets as well.
The film is also filled with celebrity cameos that will delight all ages, and show-piece songs that, I have to admit, are still stuck in my head (once again written by Bret McKenzie, who won an Oscar for The Muppets’ “Man or Muppet”). There are clever jokes that tip their hat to an adult audience, but even the kids’ humor doesn’t stoop. Of course, there is a heart and a message, one that is ultimately about friends being your family and how important those relationships are; it feels sweet, but not overly so, when the humor comes in. Plotwise, the film is different enough from the first of the reboot to wonder what Disney has planed for the Muppets going forward, but I was relieved that it did not feel like a sequel for a sequel’s (or money’s) sake. Muppets Most Wanted is charming because the Muppets themselves are charming, and so is watching actors we know interacting with them and clearly loving it, which only helps us love it.
Make sure to check out Muppets Most Wanted when it hits theaters on March 21, 2014.