This handsome, aquiline-featured actor moved from his native Northern Ireland to London, where he got his dramatic schooling and made his film debut in the short "Unusual Ground Floor Conversation" (1...
I know, that headline is trouble. You're always treading dangerous ground when you insist on defining what makes a good this or the right kind of that, as if there is no room for change or improvement when it comes to classic properties. Of course there is — Jason Segel's 2011 Muppet film approached the concept from an entirely different direction. It didn't hit all of its marks, but it prevailed overall in its conceit: make a movie not about Muppets, but about Muppet fandom. But Muppets Most Wanted, in absence of a clear mission statement and fueled largely by the monetary glimmers of the sequel game (the film's opening number admits this outright), has fewer marks readily available to hit. Landing in the ambiguity between the classic Muppet adventure formula and Segel's post-modern Henson appreciation party, Most Wanted feels like a failure on both counts. It doesn't know which kind of movie it wants to, or should, be. So it doesn't really be anything.
On the one hand, there's the half-cocked "get-the-band-back-together" through line, mimicking but not quite accomplishing the spirit of the 2011 picture. None of the Muppets are particularly likable or charming in this turn, and even fewer of them actually given anything to do. Kermit loses his s**t in the first act after a spat with Piggy and a barrage of insubordination from his troupe (provoked by the nefarious Dominic Badguy, Ricky Gervais), storms off in a huff, and gets swept up in a case of mistaken identity when his criminal doppelganger Constantine pulls the old switcheroo, landing Kermit in a Russian gulag. You'd think this would be a good opportunity for the second tier of Muppet favorites — Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo, Scooter, Rowlf, et al — to go on a search and rescue... but save for a very brief sequence at the tail end of this achingly long film, none of the other Muppets are giving anything to do. They just hem and haw and perform the occasional "Indoor Running of the Bulls" while Dominic and Constantine scheme, rob banks, and bicker.
Meanwhile, Kermit has some fun in prison — a far more endearing plot that sees him befriending the merry convicts, organizing a penitentiary revue, and even winning the heart of the vicious warden Nadia (Tina Fey). If only we could spend more time with real Kermit and less time with fake Kermit and his second banana Gervais, an effectively boring pair.
On the other hand, though, there's the Muppet shtick that fans of The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island — and yes, The Muppet Show itself — will deem the movie's best material: CIA Agent Sam Eagle and Interpol Agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) hot on the trail of Constantine and Dominic. Here, we get a different type of Muppet movie entirely from what Segel and the A-plot in Most Wanted are opting: the old fashioned vaudeville act, with Sam standing as an independent entity from his googly-eyed brethren, on a goofy, musical prowl with Burrell that fuels the film with its best and most consistent chuckles. Their "Interrogation Song" number is outstanding, exemplifying the many talents of Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie, who wrote all the music for this and the previous film.
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Unfortunately, Muppets Most Wanted isn't sure that it wants to be The Great Muppet Caper, beheld so stubbornly to its Segelian roots. There's a palpable compulsion to stick with this agonizingly self-aware, nostalgia-crazy, brimming-beacons-of-the-past-in-a-callous-today theme that doesn't work a fraction as well as it did in the 2011 film. Without a legitimate celebration of any of our favorite characters, how could it? With so much going on in this movie, and such a lengthy runtime at just under two hours, it's a sure sign of failure that we walk away feeling like we spent barely any time with the Muppets.
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Co-starred in the TV production "The Blue Boy", featuring Emma Thompson
First leading role in "Hear My Song"; also co-wrote screenplay with director Peter Chelsom
Co-starred in "The Crying Game"
Acted in the short film, "Unusual Ground Floor Conversation"
Had supporting role in "The Playboys"
Co-starred with Brendan Gleeson in "The General", about real life Irish criminal Martin Cahill
Met Peter Chelsom in Liverpool when both were members of the Royal Court Theater Company
Co-starred in the indie film, "Eye of the Dolphin"
Supported Jennifer Ehle in the British miniseries "Melissa"
Played first notable feature film role in "A World Apart"
Was featured in "Shooters" with Gerard Butler and Matthew Rhys
Appeared in the feature "Widow's Peak"
Appeared in the re-staging of "The Quatermass Experiment" (BBC4)
Portrayed Tyrell in Richard Loncraine's modern-day adaptation of "Richard III", featuring Ian McKellen
Co-starred with Colm Meaney, playing a pub owner and storekeeper, in "How Harry Became a Tree"
Reteamed with Brendan Gleeson for "Wild About Harry"
This handsome, aquiline-featured actor moved from his native Northern Ireland to London, where he got his dramatic schooling and made his film debut in the short "Unusual Ground Floor Conversation" (1987). Dunbar appeared in many stage productions ("Real Dreams", "The Danton Affair", "Ourselves Along", "Pope's Wedding" and "By the Border") while also building up his films credits. He appeared in supporting roles in the British-made dramas "A World Apart" and "The Dawning" (both 1988), played one of Daniel Day-Lewis' many brothers in "My Left Foot" (1989), and began earning larger roles in the dramas "Dealers" and "Drowning in the Shallow End" (both British-made, 1989).<p> Dunbar made his bow as a screenwriter (co-authoring with director Peter Chelsom) with the pleasantly whimsical Anglo-Irish comedy "Hear My Song" (1991), based on the real-life case of Josef Locke. He also co-starred, as a somewhat inept con artist and nightclub owner who reforms by going on an earnest quest for a tax-evading tenor. Dunbar appeared with Aidan Quinn and Robin Wright in "The Playboys" (1992) and was critically lauded as a determined IRA assassin in Neil Jordan's "The Crying Game" (1992). He courted Natasha Richardson in "Widow's Peak" (1994) and appeared in three 1995 releases, "Cruel Train", "Innocent Lies" and the 1930s-era "Richard III".<p> On TV, Dunbar has appeared in the seventh "Inspector Morse" installment (PBS, 1994), the A&E movie "Cracker: The Mad Woman in the Attic" (1994) and as Emma Thompson's unsympathetic husband in the ghostly "The Blue Boy" (PBS, 1994).