In the opening number of Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted, the audience gets ample warning of what to expect as the characters sing: “We’re doing a sequel. That’s what we do in Hollywood, and everybody knows the sequel is never quite as good.”
The song even includes a dig at Disney, which bought the Muppets franchise in 2004: “The studio wants more while they wait for Tom Hanks to do Toy Story 4.”
The self-deprecating humor of Muppets Most Wanted, the “sequel” to the successful The Muppets, makes the film, in some ways, much more entertaining and endearing than its predecessor.
This film begins after the success of the first film with the Muppets gang planning a world tour, hoping to sell out a variety show. Fearless leader Kermit tries to manage the group and wants to do a set that would appeal to the masses. Of course, he gets push-back from his opinionated friends — from Gonzo’s suggestion of doing a dangerous indoor running of the bulls, to Miss Piggy wanting all the song numbers, to Animal wanting a two-hour drum solo.
Dominic Badguy, played by a devilish Ricky Gervais, steps in to convince the Muppets that they can sell out theaters with all their ideas. Unbeknownst to the Muppets, he is the No. 2 bad guy to Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog, who happens to be a dead ringer for our hero Kermit.
Once the switcheroo is made, Kermit ends up in a Russian gulag, while Kermit with a bad accent ends up leading the Muppets to Berlin, Madrid and eventually to the Tower of London to steal the crown jewels.
Tina Fey plays Kermit’s love-hate prison guard Nadya and there’s a slightly funny sequence where Kermit tries to escape in different ways and gets caught by Nadya every time. The better pairing is between Jean Pierre Napoleon (a sly Ty Burrell), an Interpol agent, and CIA agent Sam the Eagle to solve the crime caper.
There are plenty of one-liners and wokka-wokka fun, but like the first film, some may have a political hang-up as the retro Russian villains may hit too close to current events.
In the end, there really was no need for a disclaimer. As in the sequel the Muppets prove they can pull off anything with a smile.