Wanted: More originality in 'Muppets' sequel

The Fresno BeeMarch 19, 2014 

Scooter, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear in "Muppets Most Wanted."

DISNEY

It was inevitable that a sequel to the 2011 film "The Muppets" would be made after it took in more than $160 million. The rush to get a follow-up movie out has resulted in the rather sloppy "Muppets Most Wanted."

At the heart, the movie has the same sweet Muppet charm, but it's presented in a way that lacks originality and pays little attention to detail.

"Muppets Most Wanted" picks up at the end of "The Muppets." After Kermit and the gang save their beloved theater, they are at a loss as to what to do next. A suggestion from a sleazy tour promoter, Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), sends the Muppets on a world tour. The trip is actually part of a complicated plan by Badguy and his boss, Constantine (an evil frog who looks exactly like Kermit), to steal the Crown Jewels.

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Director James Bobin — along with co-writer Nicholas Stoller — has cobbled together a series of slightly interesting scenes that fail to capitalize on the true strength of the Muppets. Kermit and the rest of the crew are at their best when they're involved in some chaotic activity. Instead, Bobin shows more interest in making a '50s crime caper than a Muppet movie.

In a scene where Badguy is trying to get to the jewels, he does some acrobatics to get through a series of lasers — a scene that has been done in countless movies. A better approach would have been to have Dr. Bunsen Honeydew create some kind of gadget that would put Beaker in harm's way. That's the Muppet way.

Even the "evil twin" gimmick plays old and tired.

The film shows plenty of signs of being rushed into studios.

The opening theme song about making a sequel says that it will be called "Muppets Again." When the name was changed for marketing purposes, the song was not re-written and re-recorded. And, the new name is weak because it's not the Muppets who end up being wanted. It might seem like a small point, but it's always been the attention to detail that has made the Muppets so much fun.

When it comes to the humans in the film, Gervais does his best to make Badguy a fun character. But more often than not, he just looks embarrassed. Tina Fey's Russian accent as the head of the Gulag, where Kermit ends up, wears thin fast. The best work is by Ty Burrell, who channels Peter Sellers to play a bumbling French detective.

As has become the norm with these films, the movie is loaded with cameos. Adults who get bored with the flat story can at least try to guess which well-known actor is in a scene. You know a movie has problems when it takes a celebrity version of "Where's Waldo" to keep the audience entertained.

It's nice to have the Muppets back, but the euphoria of their return gets wiped away by this disappointing sequel. The movie proves its not easy earning green again.

Movie review

"Muppets Most Wanted," rated PG for mild action. Stars Kermit, Miss Piggy, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell. Directed by James Bobin. Running time: 112 minutes. Grade: C+

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TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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