Film

Muppets Most Wanted

It’s a sequel, all right

Thursday, March 20, 2014

“Everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good,” the Muppets boisterously confess in the self-referential opening musical number, “We’re Doing a Sequel,” and it proves a self-fulfilling prophecy in Muppets Most Wanted, an oddly off-key follow-up to the generally amusing 2011 feature that marked Disney’s relaunch of the late Jim Henson’s 1970s-‘80s childhood favorites. Call it ominous timing or merely a weird coincidence, but the main bad guy here is a Russian frog, and much of the action takes place at a Siberian gulag. What little kids will make of this is anyone’s guess.

There’s a touch of Mel Brooks-ian audacity in the conceit of having tough-looking prisoners in a Russian prison camp suddenly go Broadway and put on a song-and-dance show with the approval of the fearsome commander played by a very bossy Tina Fey. But, given the geopolitical events of the past couple of weeks, the entire enterprise will be seen by many adults, if not their kids, through a somewhat malign filter, thanks to the central presence of a Number One Most Wanted criminal frog with a Russian accent who impersonates Kermit in order to pull off a series of spectacular robberies with an unctuous but resentful henchman played by Ricky Gervais.

The sequel, with director James Bobin returning and co-writing with first installment co-writer Nicholas Stoller, literally picks up where the first one left off, on Hollywood Boulevard after the successful stage show hastily put on by the reunited Muppets. But even as the fuzzy ones are celebrating, on the other side of the globe, Kermit look-alike Constantine engineers a spectacular escape from Gulag 38B, news he immediately communicates to cohort Dominic Badguy (Gervais), a talent manager who sells the Muppets on his plans for an international tour by slyly telling them that, “I want you to conquer the world.”

Those rights will actually be held by Constantine and Dominic, who arrange a cockamamie scheme in which every European venue at which the Muppets are booked just happens to be adjacent to a museum or bank that can be robbed during the performance. At their first stop in Berlin, where the American entertainers are perturbed by billboards that read, “Die Muppets,” Constantine has Kermit kidnapped and sent to Siberia, where he lucks out in having as camp boss a closet musical comedy queen who’s all for her gruff inmates putting on a show.

Meanwhile, Constantine and Dominic plot world domination while the former overcomes suspicions about his accent by wooing Miss Piggy in a way Kermit never did and fostering her dreams of a European wedding. The great event, he promises, will take place at the Tower of London, which, conveniently, is home to the Crown Jewels, the theft of which will cap his career as the greatest criminal of all time.

But not if Kermit can help it. Taking a direct cue from the farewell performance of the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music, the little croaker manages a shrewd escape during a performance and somehow ends up in London the next day, just in time to allow Miss Piggy, at the altar, to figure out who the real Kermit is, him or the rich guy with the accent.

The liveliest thing about Muppets Most Wanted is the score. The songs are not uniformly great, but they possess energy, some clever lyrics and an old-school, eager-to-please pizzazz that alleviate the mild tediousness of the arguments over criminal pecking order between Constantine and Dominic and the mildewed refrains of mutual love, respect and support among the perennially insecure Muppets.

Even talents as formidable as Gervais and Fey become a bit wearisome here in one-note parts that force them to be loudly over-the-top nearly all the time. Ty Burrell gets a couple of laughs as a sub-Clouseau inspector trying to get a handle on the serial robberies.

And then there are the celebrity cameos, ranging from actors with actual scenes and dialogue (Christoph Waltz, Ray Liotta, Frank Langella) and singers who chime in for a moment or two (Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett) to those who come and go in a flash (Sean Combs, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis).

If what the Muppets themselves say is true about sequels, Disney ought to think twice or three times about what’s usually true of third installments.

BTown
More Film...
LA 92
A cautionary tale

Often, documentaries about historic events prompt the question, “Why now?” Sadly, that will never be asked about Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s searing LA 92, which arrives on the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots to address an America more conscious than ever of the problems…

more »
Rumble
The Indians Who Rocked the World

In the fascinating documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, the great jazz critic Gary Giddins says, “The one group that hasn’t really been investigated in terms of their contribution [to music history] is the Native Americans.”

This new film, co-directed by Catherine…

more »
Blade Runner 2049
Man or replicant?

In 1982, when replicants hadn’t yet become a Hollywood business model, Blade Runner failed to do what Warner Brothers hoped it would: make a pile of money.

It succeeded, however, in acquiring the reputation of a modern science-fiction classic. Director Ridley Scott’s 2019-set story…

more »
Events
Today
Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Bringing history into sharp focus

10:00am

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

U.S. Citizenship Class

6:00pm|Lynden Library

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

3MB

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Summer Bike Stories

7:00pm|Cafe Velo

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

CWWarrenMiller
Tomorrow
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

3MB

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Grand Opening and Open House

11:00am|Social Fabric

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Clean Eating

2:00pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|downtown Bellingham

Art Night

5:00pm|SpringHill Suites by Marriott

12 Minutes Max Auditions

5:00pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Amber Sky CD Release Party

6:00pm|Presence Studio

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Poetry Party

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Upstream

7:00pm|Village Books

USA Dance

7:00pm|Majestic

Thriller Dance Class

7:00pm|Moles Farewell Tributes

Halloween Movie Night

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

Friday Night Flicks

7:30pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Holding the Light

8:00pm|Honey Moon

CWWarrenMiller Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Saturday
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

3MB

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

Lynden Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Terrell Creek

Scarecrow Stuffing Contest

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Landscape stewards work party

9:00am|Chuckanut Center

Pumpkins 4 Pajamas

9:00am|Lakeway Fred Meyer

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Pumpkin Patch on Rails

9:00am|Wickersham Station

Port race ponders a wasted waterfront

9:30am

Everyday Superheroes 5K

10:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Blaine Oktoberfest

10:00am|Blaine

Community Cider Pressing

10:00am|Chuckanut Center

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Enlightened Caterpillar

10:30am|Village Books

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Crown Jewel Wilderness

11:00am|Western Washington University Bookstore

Mushrooms gone wild

12:00pm

Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Conquering Writer's BLock

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Winter Birds of Whatcom County

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Undersea Bubble Fantasia

2:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Brew on the Slough

5:00pm|Maple Hall

Community Library Celebration

5:00pm|North Fork Library

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Bellingham Sportsplex

Seeds of Change

6:30pm|Edison Granary

The Great Unconformity

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Symphony's Gala Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Whose Live Anyway?

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Original Comedy Night

8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Trove Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble Village Books CWWarrenMiller Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1