A major facelift three years ago brought back a group of performers many thought would never be quite at their peak again. And, it would appear the stars of “Muppets Most Wanted” have held up well.
If you go
“Muppets Most Wanted,” rated PG
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 113 minutes
Starring: Kermit the Frog, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.
Now that they’ve got their act back together and everything is hunky-dory, the Muppets face an important decision: go back to their old routine at the Muppet Theater or expand their show. Although leader Kermit the Frog (voice of Steve Whitmire) thinks a bit of rehearsing to hone their skills is the way to go, a slick talent agent (Ricky Gervais) convinces the rest of the group that a world tour is the only logical step.
With the troupe traveling to lavish European locales to perform, Kermit is frazzled by the strain of managing all the acts with the Muppets’ insistence at pulling out all the stops and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson) haranguing him to take their relationship to the next level.
But the affable amphibian has bigger problems when he is ambushed by a look-alike frog named Constantine (Matt Vogel), whose status as the world’s most wanted criminal lands his unwitting twin in a Siberian Gulag while the imposter slides into Kermit’s life.
Oblivious to the fraud in their ranks, the Muppets have no idea the guy they think is their friend is planning a series of elaborate thefts and leaving them to take the fall, all while the real Kermit is rotting in jail.
Despite being the most recognizable of all the Muppets, it’s been many years since Kermit was given the chance to shine as the true star of any of their movies. Here we get double the pleasure, as we see the friendly frog finding prison time with the likes of Jemaine Clement, Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo sometimes easier to cope with than the hazards of a variety show that includes a lot of bad ideas from its cast, some of the worst being an indoor Running of the Bulls and the resurrection of the most annoying one-hit wonder ever made, “Macarena.”
Such bedlam is endorsed wholeheartedly by his evil doppelganger, with Constantine — whose sole identifying feature is a mole he covers with green paint — taking advantage of the confusion to pull off a number of heists from museums that just happen to be located next to each of their venues.
Of course, assistance from Gervais is handy, showing you always can trust a man named Dominic Badguy — pronounced “Bad-gee” — to help you get up to no good.
The British comic’s genuine voice is a relief in an ongoing contest to see who has the goofiest accent, between Constantine’s indeterminate origins; Tina Fey’s exaggerated Russian intonation, as penitentiary taskmaster Nadya; and Ty Burrell’s attempts to channel Peter Sellers as an Inspector Clouseau-like Interpol agent who’s teamed with CIA agent Sam Eagle to catch the dastardly thieves gallivanting around the globe.
And, for a pompous patriot like Sam, having a French partner is an affront of the highest sort.
As for the rest of the Muppet gang, they’re about the same as you remember them — including new character Walter (Peter Linz), a holdover from their last movie — and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“The Muppets” in 2011 proved the brainchild of the late Jim Henson and associates is stronger than ever with audiences, given the right handling. Director James Bobin’s script, co-written with Nicholas Stoller, sticks with the successful formula that’s worked for a long time: let the puppets do their thing, sprinkle in celebrity cameos wherever needed and feature plenty of song and dance numbers, as written by Bret McKenzie.
The opening tune “We’re Doing a Sequel” sets a characteristically meta tone for the whole movie, which at times comes dangerously close to ripping off its own predecessors with story elements that too closely resemble “The Great Muppet Caper” and “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” even giving us a new version of “Together Again” from the latter, which might make some fans fear they’re running short on ideas.
If this callback to 30 years ago were all it had to offer, this, the eighth theatrical film in the series, wouldn’t work, but its examination of how a certain verdant hero affects holds together all the crazy folks around him lets it stand on its own legs, spindly and covered in felt material though they may be.
“Muppets Most Wanted” is neither the funniest nor most heartwarming escapade this band of misfits has ever had, but you can’t expect to set new standards on every outing. Even so, it’s as solid an entry in the Henson chronology as any, demonstrating that the Muppets, tangible people without computer-generated imagery, are magical to any age group.
It’s kind of overemphasizing the point by putting Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett onscreen at the same time, but come on, they’re not rocket scientists.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.