Muppets Most Wanted picks up right where the 2011 reboot left off (seriously-- it starts with The Muppets' closing shot of "The End" spelled out in fireworks), and then launches into its first musical number, "We're Doing a Sequel".
You'd think, therefore, that it would be as fun as the first. Or at least close. But as the opening ditty's all-too-self-aware lyrics tell us, "Everybody knows the sequel's never quite as good."
The key ingredient missing this go-round is Jason Segel, who wrote, executive produced, and starred in the original (which was actually the 7th movie starring Kermit and the gang). After single-handedly leading the charge to resurrect The Muppets three years ago, he declined to play any role in continuing the franchise any further.
While Muppets Most Wanted is still a fairly entertaining romp, it's far from the inspired reverie of its predecessor. Cameos again abound, but many of them are entirely pointless; folks like James McAvoy, Sean Combs, and Chloë Grace Moretz speak barely a line (if that). And the songs are once again written by Bret McKenzie, but they don't seem nearly as inventive or memorable this time.
The script by James Bobin (who also directed) and Nicholas Stoller centers on a heist orchestrated by "the world's most dangerous frog", Constantine, who we first see breaking out of a Siberian Gulag. He's a spitting image for our pal Kermit, with the exception of a nasty mole on his right cheek. Together with his henchman Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), he plans to steal the crown jewels from the Tower of London and have the Muppets take the blame for it.
But first Constantine needs to frame Kermit and get him shipped to the Gulag in his place. All it takes is a fake mole and some super glue, and Kermit is out of the picture.
From there, our oblivious, felt-covered gang is off on their world tour through Europe, with each stop carefully planned by Constantine; the venues are always next door to banks or museums where the bad guys can pick up an artifact needed for their heist.
There are certainly some fun moments here, but by and large Muppets Most Wanted feels like a second-rate re-tread. The manic energy (and equal amount of heart) of The Muppets is missing, making this sequel (eighth-quel?) pale in comparison.
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