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Movie Review: Evil Kermit enlivens belabored ‘Muppets’ sequel

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‘Muppets Most Wanted’

★★1/2

“Everybody knows the sequel’s never quite as good,” Kermit and the gang sing in the big opening production number of “Muppets Most Wanted” and in this case, they’re kind of right.

This is still a Muppet movie, though, and for a lot of people, that’s going to be more than enough.

A product of mostly the same creative crew responsible for the 2011 franchise reboot “The Muppets” (with the exception of that film’s co-writer/star Jason Segal), including director James Bobin, co-writers Bobbin and Nicholas Stoller and songwriter Bret McKenzie (HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords”), “Most Wanted” begins precisely where the earlier film ended. The extras have scarcely walked away from the set before someone notices the camera is still rolling. Meaning the show must go on.

Where it’s supposed to go, however, is a little unclear until Ricky Gervais as oily superstar manager Dominic Badguy (“It’s pronounced Bad-gee”) convinces them to go on a world tour. Though his real plan involves using the Muppets as cover for robbing the greatest banks and museums in Europe with the ultimate goal of stealing the crown jewels of England. A nefarious scheme he sets into motion by having Kermit kidnapped and packed off to a Russian gulag in the place of his very evil look-alike Constantine, also known as The World’s Most Dangerous Frog.

If that sounds like fun, well, it is basically. Especially since none of the Muppets (except Animal, who’s never been known for rational observation) realize Constantine is an imposter, despite the large facial mole he’s obviously covered with green makeup. And his thick Russian accent. And his most unKermit-like nasty streak, which he makes half-hearted efforts to hide. (“It’s not easy being mean,” Constantine pouts to the audience in an aside.)

There’s other fun stuff as well. Mixed in with the usual purposefully cornball Muppets humor, we get the occasional clever gag, such as a quick “Seventh Seal” reference, with the Swedish Chef playing chess with the Grim Reaper. Tina Fey is also a major plus as the gulag commandant with a secret passion for Broadway — and Kermit. And you have to give some props to any movie that includes tough-guy Danny Trejo as a gulag prisoner singing a solo from “A Chorus Line.”

The only real problem here is that the nearly two-hour “Most Wanted” simply rambles on too long — and makes room for maybe one or two (or three) too many production numbers. Silliness, which is the thing the Muppets are best at, just doesn’t hold up that well after it begins to seem belabored And there’s just enough of an overabundance of everything here, even the stuff that works best, to make it all feel a bit wearisome.

Though, frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of evil Kermit. Perhaps a spinoff is in order?

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