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Muppets Most Wanted Review: Typical Muppet Zaniness Equals Awesome For Us.

Muppets Most Wanted Review
By: Matt Cummings

The sequel Muppets Most Wanted is typical Muppets zaniness, and that's awesome for us.

Among the most pleasant surprises of 2011 was the return of Jim Henson's Muppets in The Muppets. An emotional reunion filled with all the classic Muppet ingredients - memorable songs and zany comedy - it made a huge splash among old and new fans alike. Whether that winning formula could be repeated in a sequel has been the subject of debate among those who lovingly grew up with Sesame Street and later The Muppet Show, but who also worried that Disney might not give it the free reign it deserved. Luckily, Muppets Most Wanted recaptures that magic in many ways, but forgivingly misses in a few others.

As the curtain literally draws on the last Muppets movie, the team realizes that their newly-rediscovered stardom is not as great as they thought. Feeling a bit desperate for direction, they hire the sneaky agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) who promises to take them on a European tour that will showcase their homespun talents. But Dominic's plan is really to replace Kermit the Frog (voiced by Steve Whitmire) with his evil boss Constantine (voiced by Matt Vogel), who escapes from a Siberian prison and the clutches of the prison warden Nadya (Tina Fey). Soon, Kermit finds himself in Constantine's prison garb, while Constantine must adjust to his new surrounding while keeping the diva Ms. Piggy (voiced by Eric Jacobson) at bay. Dominic and Constantine want to steal priceless treasures from Europe's finest art houses, which attracts the attention of Interpol Agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), who's also searching for Europe's top thief The Lemur. As the Muppets head towards certain disaster, Kermit faces his greatest challenge yet, while his friends must find a way to get their favorite frog back.

The appeal of The Muppets is timeless, and Most Wanted finds itself ensconced in a dizzying myriad of cameos, wacky skits, and toe-tapping songs, all of which are fiercely unapologetic in their...Muppet-ness. This franchise has always thrived as both self-aware and self-deprecating, with a plot thrown in for color. Writer/Director James Bobin returns to craft a very different kind of sequel, based on epic continent-spanning adventures that include polar ice caps, deserts, more ice caps, then deserts, and...well, you get the picture. Gervais is an enjoyable lead who brings the evil and the humor at just the right amounts, whether it's singing about being Number 2 to Constantine or parading around in a funny costume near film's end. Burrell is equally funny, competing with Sam the Eagle and making the most of the physical humor he's provided. Bobin really understands The Muppets in a way that I think would make Jim Henson proud - there's a precociousness to these felt and furry creatures, and he captures their bigger-than-life world with great effectiveness. But it's also the songs by Composer Bret McKenzie - from the instant classic We're Doing a Sequel to The Big House with a singing Tina Fey and special guest - which celebrate the wonderfully self-aware nature that has become a staple of this franchise.

If you're looking for an actual storyline, Bobin has given us a decent one, albeit nowhere near to the original. And while the message that sometimes what you want isn't really what you need is played out fairly well, it's not the reason why we're here. Long-time fans will regard this glitch as a minor one, as the franchise was never really about a particularly deep narrative. What made The Muppets so endearing was the inclusion of an emotional reunion that people had waited a decade to see. This time, the message takes second place to the skits, as we're treated to Muppets traveling the world and colliding into each other while singing funny songs. In any other genre, we would be decrying its flimsy story, but for Muppets Most Wanted, it's an opportunity for ridiculousness, some songs, more ridiculousness, and genuine heart-felt moments. It's the only franchise that can make that claim and get away with it. Some will also decry the lack of attention paid to fan-favorite Pepe the King Prawn, who made Muppets in Space so good, and his absence is puzzling to say the least. And while it also meanders a bit with one too many musical skits, we can still endorse it and even hope for a Director's Cut to arrive on home video.  Its warm, inviting aura isn't bulletproof, but it comes pretty close to it.

In the end, anyone looking to punch holes in Muppets Most Wanted might want to check if they actually have a heart. It's hilarious, light-hearted, wonderfully self-aware, and filled with enough cameos to fill several major motion pictures. It should do very well with families looking for inoffensive, lovable humor among teenage distopia, swords and sandals epics, and underachieving race car flicks. It's not quite The Muppets, but this one features plenty to like.

Muppets Most Wanted is rated PG for being warm and hugable and has a runtime of 112 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook.  On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125. Please leave a comment.

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