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Arts and Entertainment

Kermit The Frog Plays Second Fiddle In Disappointing 'Muppets Most Wanted'

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I'm glad the Muppets are back. And if the overwhelmingly positive response to 2011's The Muppets is any indication, that seems to be the general feeling among people. So while I admit that Muppets Most Wanted, Disney's second movie since acquiring the Muppets properties in 2008, was mostly an enjoyable way to spend 113 minutes, but there's still something unsatisfying about it.

Muppets Most Wanted literally picks up right where the last movie left off, as a musical number bluntly titled "We're Doing A Sequel" kicks off on Hollywood Boulevard as extras walk off the set. Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) convinces the crew of puppets to hire him as their manager and embark on a world tour. Not so coincidentally, Constantine, the "World's Number One Criminal" and dead ringer for Kermit the Frog (save an obvious mole) breaks out of a Siberian gulag and manages to trade places with Kermit while the Muppets are on tour in Berlin. Badguy and Constantine use the Muppets tour as an integral part of their plan to steal the Crown Jewels of England. In Siberia, Kermit adjusts to his new predicament by using his talents to organize a gulag variety show a la Bridge On The River Kwai under the watchful eye of Nadya (Tina Fey, employing one of the best intentionally bad Russian accents), a prison guard who just so happens to be obsessed with Kermit.

Muppets Most Wanted returns most of the the team that made the previous film such a success, including Bret McKenzie (half of "Flight of the Conchords") who writes most of the songs again. And some of the songs are really quite wonderful, especially Tina Fey's doo-wop boogie "The Big House" celebrating her frozen accommodations and Constantine-pretending-to-be-Kermit's sleazy disco groove of "I'll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo In Malibu)". The Muppets formula is familiar, with enough celebrity cameos to stretch the credits to their limit and plenty of gags to appeal to all ages, but a few high-minded jokes tossed in just for the parents.

But something just doesn't sit right with Muppets Most Wanted. Jim Henson's hippie optimism and sunny disposition seems to fade away just a bit more with each Muppet product since his death in 1990 and the franchise is dangerously close to becoming just another bland children's product. Muppets Most Wanted is no exception. What's more, the filmmakers make the egregious error of making Badguy and Constantine's caper the majority of the movie, when the most chemistry onscreen comes in the gulag between Kermit, Nadya, and the prisoners (a motley crew that includes the likes of Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo). Why, oh why, would you make a Muppets movie where Kermit the Frog plays second fiddle?

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"We're doing a sequel / That's what we do in Hollywood / And everybody knows that the sequel's never quite as good," the Muppets sheepishly sing at the beginning of the film. Ain't that the truth.

Muppets Most Wanted opens in theaters everywhere tomrorow.