The film picks up literally the moment after the previous film ends with the Muppets trying to figure out what to do now that they are back together. Enter Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), a promoter who suggests that the Muppets take their show on a world tour. Although he insists that his last name is pronounced “bad-gee,” Dominick lives up to what it really looks like as he is in league with Constantine, the world’s most criminally dangerous frog and a near dead-ringer for Kermit. Badguy’s real motive is to swap Kermit with Constantine imprisoned in a Russian gulag while they use the tour as cover fr a complicated heist to steal the British crown jewels.
What plays out is a cross between The Shawshank Redemption and National Treasure (with an obvious dash or two of the Marx Brothers) as Kermit tries to adjust to life in the Russian Gulag by staging the prison’s annual talent show while the Muppets are fairly oblivious to the fact that their friend is now speaking in a stilted, quasi-European accent and suddenly not taking much of an interest in the actual show they are supposed to be touring. And hot on the trail of Constantine and Badguy are Interpol inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burell) and CIA agent Sam The Eagle.
If you were one of the ones who thought that Muppets seemed to be almost supporting players in their own story in the last film, you should be much happier this time around. The Muppets are very much front and center in all the action this time, with all human characters playing very much a supporting role. But perhaps because of that shift in emphasis, the film is lacking a bit of the emotional depth that the last film had. While there is a variation on the standard will they/won’t they romantic tension between Kermit and Miss Piggy, the film doesn’t have anything as emotionally resonating as The Muppets‘ “Man Or Muppet” song.
But the sacrifice of the emotional depth of the first film in favor of rapid fire jokes still recalls the early days of the Muppets film franchise from the 1970s and `80s, before it descended into tepid literary adaptations like Muppets Treasure Island and Muppets Wizard Of Oz.
A hallmark of classic Muppet films, celebrity cameo appearances, is well on display in this newest installment. In fact, perhaps a little too much so. The best cameos should serve a purpose and in the case of the Muppets films it should be a comedic one. It is not enough to just have Chloë Grace Moretz show up as a street urchin selling newspapers in one shot. Much more effective is something like perennial B-movie tough guy Danny Trejo singing and dancing in the gulag’s talent show. But there are too many cameos that don’t serve that purpose and manage to turn the film into just a game of spot-the-celebrity at points.