Immediately after the end of the last film, the Muppets embark on a European tour at the behest of agent Dominic Badguy (Gervais). Soon Kermit has been kidnapped and replaced with a criminal mastermind double, Constantine...
It's awfully hard to critique a film that picks its own nits in the opening musical number, the lyrics cheerfully noting that sequels never measure up to the original (or, as Bunsen points out, the previous and seventh film in the franchise), and boasts later scenes snarking at the last film’s focus on new characters at the expense of veteran Muppets. Happily, while this is, inevitably, a decline from the triumphant reboot last time, it is a slight falling off rather than a wholescale plummet.
There’s a lot of plot squeezed in here: Ricky Gervais’ machinations to move the Muppet tour to places important to his schemes take some time, and there’s a fairly substantial gulag-set segment when bad frog Constantine (Matt Vogel) has the hapless Kermit incarcerated in his place and under Tina Fey’s prison guard. In addition, Miss Piggy is planning her wedding, while the CIA’s Sam The Eagle and Interpol’s Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) hunt Constantine and his mysterious co-conspirator, the Lemur.
Elements of all this are wonderful. Burrell adopts a Clouseau-esque accent and gleefully stereotypes the French — the campaign for a Sam-and-Jean-Pierre buddy-cop spin-off starts here — while Fey and her all-star inmates have the most pleasantly absurd moments of the whole thing. A flood of celebrity cameos, from Celine Dion (inspired) to Diddy (pointless), keep the energy up, but their sheer numbers distract from the Muppets themselves again. Kermit, Piggy and newcomer Constantine get more screen time, but still not enough. Will we ever see a Muppets movie about the Muppets again?
That opening number aside, the songs aren’t quite as catchy as one might like in a post-Everything Is Awesome world, but Bret McKenzie’s lyrics remain witty and warm. And in the end, we get not only a sweet moment between Kermit and Piggy but also a huge Muppet singalong, so that only the most cynical will leave with anything other than a smile on their face.
Nearly as good as the last film the starrier cameos compensating somewhat for the more scattershot plot this is fun but could have been more deeply felt.