Successfully rebooted in 2011 with Disney’s “The Muppets,” the franchise is back with another clever installment, “Muppets Most Wanted,” from the writing-directing team of James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, the creators (with Bret McKenzie) of cable TV’s witty “Flight of the Conchords.”
McKenzie won a best-song Oscar for “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets,” and he’s once more provided the original songs.
As the title suggests, the new film finds Miss Piggy and Kermit in trouble with the law.
Kermit has a double, who looks exactly like the world’s No. 1 criminal, Constantine — whose assistant, Dominic, is played by none other than the terror of the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais. Ty Burrell turns up as a poker-faced Interpol agent. But most of the laughs come courtesy of Tina Fey, in the role of a Siberian prison guard who can’t/won’t stop dancing.
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Her scenes in a Gulag include a sendup of “A Chorus Line” (“I really need this job”) and similarly strenuous numbers seemingly inspired by “Oliver!” with its high-kicking orphans and pickpockets. Apparently there’s nothing like deprivation to satisfy the dancing urge.
Miss Piggy, of course, has her moments, including a frightful impersonation of Celine Dion singing about her heart going on, and there are goofy sendups of “The Waltons” and “The Great Escape.” At several points, it’s suggested that Kermit’s double is “the most dangerous frog in the world.”
But Constantine doesn’t seem all that evil, and the plot surrounding him goes nowhere. Perhaps as compensation for the lack of scariness, Disney has thrown in a new “Monsters University” short called “Party Central” to start the show.
John Hartl: email@example.com