Kids don't love the Muppets? Get a sitter

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceMarch 21, 2014 

Film Review Muppets Most Wanted

Sam the Eagle, right, with Ty Burrell in a scene from "Muppets Most Wanted."

DISNEY — AP

“Muppets Most Wanted” is funnier than the 2011 Muppet revival, with far better songs (by Bret McKenzie), punnier puns and all manner of geo-political gags, cultural wisecracks and star cameos.

Sure, you can take the kids. But will they get the joke where the Swedish Chef is in a remake of the Ingmar Bergman film “The Seventh Seal”? Will they know who Celine Dion is, and why Miss Piggy wanting to sing a duet with her is funny?

And clocking in at a kid-patience-testing 1 hour and 52 minutes, you have to wonder if Disney doesn’t realize that it’s making these films not for children, but for the people who loved the TV show back when Liberace and Liza Minnelli were guest starring. Lady Gaga and Usher may need no 10-and-under introduction, but Salma Hayek, Josh Groban, Ray Liotta, Saoirse Ronan, Danny Trejo, “Thor” villain Tom Hiddleston (in light-red hair), Tony Bennett and Frank Langella? They’re going to give the grown-ups a giggle.

In this film, Kermit and the Muppets have barely reunited as a group when a predatory manager (Ricky Gervais) lures them into a world tour with promises of sold-out shows and worldwide Muppet adoration. But the tour is basically a plot by Dominic Badguy (“It’s pronounced ‘Bad-gee.’ It’s French.”) to put a criminal mastermind and Kermit look-alike in charge of “The Muppet Show.”

Constantine, “the world’s most dangerous frog,” breaks out of a Russian gulag, covers his facial mole in green makeup and tries to twist his Russian accent into Kermit speech to make the switcheroo work. Somehow almost everybody is fooled, even the insistently lovesick Miss Piggy.

The production numbers are epic — from the “everybody knows a sequel is never quite as good” opener, to a Gervais duet with Constantine, Miss Piggy sharing a song with her idol Celine, and Fey’s ’60s girl group-style prison show stopper, “Big House.”

The new voices don’t quite match your memories of the original cast, a good reason to keep Kermit off camera for much of the film. And “Most Wanted” is entirely too long, which puts a strain on the slight sight gags (towering Ty Burrell and Sam the Eagle stuffed into a tiny Interpol police car) and time-worn puns.

But “Most Wanted” is amusing enough to make you think, “So what if the kids don’t dig it? Hire a sitter!” This is what PG comedy was meant to be, with the giggles mixed with the groans, something only “Macarena”-dancing Muppets can deliver.

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