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REVIEW

Muppets Most Wanted

By DAN LYBARGER SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published March 21, 2014 at 2:25 a.m.

The quality of character development and writing in movies might improve if more performers were covered in felt. The Muppets (2011) showed there was still life in these cloth critters decades after founding Muppeteer Jim Henson passed on.

This time around there is a feeling of sequelitis, but the folks behind Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy have enough imagination and cornball wit to make another installment worthwhile.

Beginning where The Muppets left off, Kermit (Steve Whitmire) finds himself in a quandary because he and his pals have returned to the spotlight and have the unenviable task of repeating their success. A tour seems like a good idea, especially because Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson) would love a Parisian honeymoon with her commitment-phobic frog.

Before Kermit can lament the logistic challenges, an agent named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) offers the plush stars his services in landing gigs at the most prestigious halls in Europe. If Kermit is understandably leery of taking on a manager named “Badguy” (Dominic pronounces it “Bawd-gee”), the shady fellow somehow scores choice venues, glowing reviews and sold-out crowds.

Sadly, it doesn’t take long to find out how Dominic is able to draw crowds. He’s really working for the sinister Constantine (Matt Vogel), an escapee from the Russian gulags who also happens to look a lot like Kermit. He ingeniously tricks the authorities to mistake the object of Miss Piggy’s eye for himself while he and Dominic plunder museums across Europe that just happen to be next door to where the rest of the Muppets are performing.

Kermit would like to warn the rest of his cloth family, but he’s stuck in the gulag with a determined guard (TinaFey). Meanwhile a bumbling Interpol agent (Ty Burrell) and the humorless CIA official Sam the Eagle (Jacobson again) try to stop Constantine before he plunders all of the Old World’s treasures.

Muppets Most Wanted isn’t quite as assured as its predecessor. The songs by Flight of the Conchords veteran Bret McKenzie are still witty, but the melodies aren’t as catchy as the ones he came up with before. At nearly two hours, Muppets Most Wanted feels a little overstuffed, as if director James Bobin had trouble deciding what to delete.

Thankfully, Bobin and his co-writer Nicholas Stoller can still find plenty of injokes, meta discourse and moments of genuine wit and heart that easily atone for the sequences that fall short. Gervais, Burrell and Fey deliver appropriately broad turns and a sense that they’re afraid of being upstaged by their cloth co-stars. Apparently, they’re not alone because half of the on-screen talent pool on both sides of the Atlantic manages to appear alongside Kermit and his brood. The Muppets may offer the only legitimate excuse for an unexpected duet between Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, but we’ll take it.

Muppets Most Wanted 86 Cast: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey; voices of Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, David Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel Director: James Bobin Rating: PG, for some mild action Running time: 112 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 03/21/2014

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