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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1. A slew of stars were given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch on its tour around the U.K. over the summer, but not everyone was granted the opportunity to run with the flame ahead of the London 2012 Games - who missed out on the occasion?
a. Daniel Radcliffe
b. Sir Patrick Stewart
c. James McAvoy
2. Which country was Tom Cruise filming in when Katie Holmes filed for divorce?
3. Which Baldwin brother took legal action against Kevin Costner amid allegations he was cheated out of profits after selling his shares in an oil filtering business?
4. In August, actress Jennifer Aniston got engaged to Justin Theroux, her co-star in which movie?
a. Horrible Bosses
c. He's Just Not That Into You
5. Saucy summer blockbuster Magic Mike was based on which actor's real-life experiences as a stripper?
a. Joe Manganiello
b. Matthew McConaughey
c. Channing Tatum
6. In July, actress Kristen Stewart confessed to an "indiscretion" with the director of which of her films?
a. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
b: Snow White and the Huntsman
c. The Runaways
7. Which celebrity couple got married in 2012 without first getting engaged?
a. Anne Hathaway and Adam Shulman
b. Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied
c. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds
8. Actress Kristin Chenoweth was critically injured on the set of which hit U.S. TV show last summer?
b. The Good Wife
c. Hot in Cleveland
9. What is the name of the actor Sienna Miller welcomed her first child with in 2012?
a) Jude Law
b) Tom Sturridge
c) Rhys Ifans
10. Sally Field had to beg Steven Spielberg for an audition to play Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary Todd in the critically acclaimed biopic Lincoln. Why?
a) She was too old
b) She was too fat
c) She was too famous
11. What was the name of Daniel Radcliffe's first feature film release of 2012 following the end of the Harry Potter franchise?
a. The Lady in Red
b. The Woman in Black
c. Lady Jane Grey
12. Which famous British actor took on a starring role in the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony reciting verses from William's Shakespeare's The Tempest?
a. Hugh Grant
b. Rowan Atkinson
c. Kenneth Branagh
13. Which Hollywood star married actor Adam Shulman in California in September?
a. Natalie Portman
b. Miley Cyrus
c. Anne Hathaway
14. Halle Berry lost a bitter custody battle with her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry over their daughter in November. What is their child's name?
15. This Hollywood hunk can normally be found fighting for a good cause but in 2012 he was chosen as the rather unusual frontman for Chanel's signature fragrance, Chanel No5. Who is he?
a. Brad Pitt
b. Colin Farrell
c. George Clooney
16. Which actress despaired that she 'looked like her gay brother' after an extreme transformation for a movie role?
a. Penelope Cruz
b. Anne Hathaway
c. Jennifer Lawrence
17. Which actress named her new baby daughter Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence?
a. Tina Fey
b. Uma Thurman
c. Jemima Kirke
18. Which British royal was hospitalised during the celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee?
a. Charles, Prince of Wales
b. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
c. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
19. Which TV legend was laid to rest four months after losing his battle with cancer?
a. Sherman Hemsley
b. Dick Clark
c. Larry Hagman
20. What is the name of the 2012 Bond movie?
21. Jennifer Lawrence played the lead role in movie hit The Hunger Games. What was her character's name?
22. Which film won the Oscar for Best Picture?
b. The Artist
23. Which film star did NOT get married in 2012?
a. Matthew McConaughey
b. Daniel Craig
c. Anne Hathaway
24. British actress Carey Mulligan married which member of musical group Mumford and Sons in April?
a. Marcus Mumford
b. Ben Lovett
c. Ted Dwane
25. Name the only surviving member of the original cast of Dallas who was not part of the hit TV drama's 2012 reboot.
a. Charlene Tilton
b. Steve Kanaly
c. Victoria Principal
26. Which veteran porn star has been immortalised in two movie biopics due out this year?
a. Linda Lovelace
b. Ron Jeremy
c. Sasha Grey
27. Which moody movie star was dramatically rescued by coast guard workers after becoming stranded during a kayaking trip off the coast of New York in September?
a. Colin Farrell
b. Dustin Hoffman
c. Russell Crowe
28. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese joined forces again in 2012 to shoot their fifth movie project - but what is the name of the new film, due for release this year?
a. The Beast of Broadway
b. The Monster of Manhattan
c. The Wolf of Wall Street
29. Which movie won the coveted Palme d'Or prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival?
c. The Paperboy
30. In November, movie hardman Sylvester Stallone launched a stage musical version of which of his famous film franchises?
c. The Expendables