“Muppets Most Wanted” opens with a joyous studio lot musical number in which our favorite Jim Henson creations proclaim they’re making a sequel to their 2011 big screen return “The Muppets.” It’s a big wink to the camera that even goes so far as to say sequels are never as good as the original. That turns out to be the case here. However, the musical numbers are terrific and fortunately there are lots of them.
Ricky Gervais as the bad guy named Dominic Badguy (pronounced “bahd-gee”) is a real surprise in “I’m Number One,” a song and dance number in which Constantine Frog reminds him who’s in charge. The evil Constantine, a frog with Yoda-like fighting skills and a dead ringer for Kermit except for a black mole, breaks out of a Siberian gulag and hooks up with Badguy to steal the crown jewels. Ty Burrell as an Interpol cop and Sam the Eagle as a CIA agent on their trail offer some rhythmic fun with the “Interrogation Song.” One of the most visually interesting moments comes with a black-and-white shot during Miss Piggy’s number with Celine Dion that includes Animal and Beaker. Kermit even gets gulag prisoners Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo (as himself) plus the gulag warden Nadya (Tina Fey) to perform a number from “A Chorus Line.”
The problem this go-round is things get clunky with too much story and too many human characters. “Muppets Most Wanted” tries to be a “National Treasure” styled caper movie and split the time equally between The Muppets and their guest stars. These movies work best when the human stars support The Muppets through a simple story while staying out of their way and letting them do what they do best. Less would have been a lot more here.
Most of the comedic antics are more amusing than funny and this movie lacks the warmth of the previous one. There are also some creepy Muppet babies that may give you nightmares. Still, the musical numbers alone make it worth seeing. And it’s The Muppets. Even when they don’t meet your expectations, they’re still going to leave you smiling.