Review: Muppets Most Wanted

muppets-most-wanted-poster1 This movie is exactly what you would expect out of a Muppets film - absurdest, slapstick humor performed by the iconic puppets with a little help from their human friends, plus a plethora of celebrity cameos. The eighth installment in the Muppets film franchise (which started way back in 1979 with 'The Muppets Movie'), releasing on March 21, follows that exact same formula that they've been using - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The premise of the film is a little different (and perhaps slightly darker) than past Muppets outings. A dangerous criminal by the name of Constantine breaks out of a Siberian Gulag - and he happens to look just like the leader of the Muppet gang, Kermit, save for a mole on his face. Meanwhile, the Muppets sign on to do a world tour, following the success of their reunion from the previous film, with manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais). Badguy and Constantine are secretly in cahoots, and Constantine takes Kermit's place as head frog by gluing a fake mole on Kermit's face and having him shipped off to the Gulag (Constantine passes for Kermit with the help of a little green makeup).

At the Gulag, Kermit becomes friendly with officer Nadya (Tina Fey), as well as many of the other prisoners. Among the prisoners are Big Papa (Ray Liotta), The Prison King (Jermaine Clement), The Great Escapo (Tom Hiddleston), and Danny Trejo. Yeah, Danny Trejo is just there in the Gulag - he's not playing a character, he's just there, being Danny Trejo. Don't worry too much about it. Kermit becomes quite despondent at times, believing the rest of the Muppets have abandoned him, but his spirits are renewed when he has the opportunity to run the annual Gulag variety show.

Meanwhile, Badguy and Constantine book the Muppets' world tour at places where they can use it as a cover in order to eventually steal the Crown Jewels of England - they break into museums and banks while the Muppets' show goes on to steal clues on how to get the Jewels themselves. Investigating these crimes are Sam the Eagle, a CIA agent, and Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), an Interpol agent. The buddy-cop side-story is one of the high points of this film, easily overshadowing almost every other Muppet-human interaction.

Strewn throughout the film are the usual musical numbers, which are easily the best moments this movie has to offer. The most memorable of these is probably one involving Miss Piggy and Celine Dion - as much as I don't care for Celine Dion, her self-parody was an absolute riot. Plus, getting to hear Jermaine Clement sing 'Workin' in the Coal Mine' in a Russian accent is pretty good. But generally speaking, the musical numbers are always the best part about these movies, so this is all to be expected.

Overall, this is a decent film, and has enough moments throughout to keep you entertained. I thought it was probably a little longer than it needed to be (it's almost a full two hours), but it has enough going for it that the length is forgivable. Is it as good as the most recent Muppets film? Absolutely not. But at least they're kind enough to tell you that in the first five minutes, where they say, "We're doing a sequel; that's what we do in Hollywood. And everybody knows that the sequel's never quite as good." The self-awareness that song offers is incredible.

This is a solid third choice after the other two major family-friendly movies out now ("The Lego Movie" and "Mister Peabody and Sherman"). It offers enough comedy-wise to keep the parents entertained if their kids feel like dragging them back out for another go-round at the cinema, but it's nothing we haven't seen from the Muppets franchise before. It's exactly what you expect, and that's fine.

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