Muppets Most Wanted opens up with a number called The Sequel Song that contains the lyric: “The sequel’s never quite as good” That can be true for most of the sequels that are released, and there are a lot of them. But those lyrics just shows how meta Muppets Most Wanted really is, because it’s true, this sequel isn’t as good as the first. Still the film is not a complete and total loss for it still packs that Muppet punch with catchy tunes, hilarious cameos from humans and Muppets alike, and clever gags. Hit the jump to read the full review.
We start Muppets Most Wanted with where The Muppets left off, on the streets of LA in front of the old Muppet theater. Left wondering what to do, the Muppets head off to relaunch their newfound stardom with the help of talent agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who suggests that the Muppets strike while they are hot and go a worldwide tour. An apprehensive Kermit feels that they are not ready for such a spectacle, but Badguy’s silver tongue convinces the other Muppets that a world tour is a great idea.
What the Muppets don’t know is that Badguy is actually a bad guy, who is in ca hoots with the nefarious and devlishly charming Constantine, the world’s most dangerous criminal. Together the two work to put Kermit in jail, and will use the mistake in identity to pull off some of the greatest crimes in all of Europe.
Directed by James Bobin and written by Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, Muppets Most Wanted feels rushed and very awkward. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the film hits the ground running, giving no time for the audience to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. You get into about 15 minutes of the film itself before you start to realize that you don’t even know what the plot of the film is. All that you know is that the music is just as good if not better than the last one.
What is so strange about Muppets Most Wanted focusing more on the Muppets than they do their human counterparts is that there aren’t enough Muppet antics. There were plenty of opportunities for the Stoller script to go crazy with all kinds of zany Muppet signature actions, but the only one that I could recall seeing in the film is Gonzo’s indoor running of the bulls. There were no arm flails, no flying chickens, or bad Fozzie jokes.
While it’s hard to believe that all of that is missing, whatever jokes you do hear and gags you do see, they do work, for the most part. Thanks in part to the classic tropes and nods to Pink Panther, Seventh Seal, and MGM mega musical numbers, the film reminds us that the glory days of movies aren’t dead yet. Some of these cameos go a little bit too meta with Christoph Waltz in a Muppet bit that has him and Sweet Ums dancing the waltz. Get it? Or Usher being a usher at a wedding. Again, get it? I’m a bit disappointed Brandon Flowers of the Killers wasn’t asked to be the flower guy. But it isn’t all bad. There are some other sweet cameos that will surprise you and have you saying “did you see that?”
That may be nice and all, but the film feels a little discombobulated due to the fact that it is essentially juggling three subplots that are trying to be one. You have the caper aspect with Dominic Badguy and Constantine using unfulfilling promises of getting the Muppet crew to do whatever they want as a front for his crimes, you have Sam Eagle and Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), and Kermit the Frog trying to clear his name while Nayda (Tina Fey) tries to keep him incarcerated.
Dominic Badguy literally plays second fiddle to Constantine, and the chemistry between the two doesn’t seem to mesh at all. Gervais seems uncomfortable playing alongside a Muppet despite his previous work with other characters like Elmo. The timing his off, and he doesn’t pull off any of his own outlandish Muppet antics while working on the heists during the film.
Burrell and Fey seem much more comfortable working with the Muppets. Burrell channeling the Pink Pather’s Inspector Jacques Clouseau as the inspiration for his character. Goofs and gags like competing shields or coffee mugs make the film feel more Muppety, but it isn’t quite enough. Fey is hysterical as usual, hard to beleive there wasn’t more screen time dedicated to her character.
Even with all those flaws in the story, the one thing you can count on being right is the music, and music supervisor Bret McKenzie nails it once again. Some songs are meta, others are eye-opening, and none of them disappoint. “The Big House” and “Workin’ In a Coal Mine” are the fun songs on one side of the coin, while “Something So Right” brings out a bit of the drama on the other side of that coin. Constantine’s “I Can Give You Anything You Want” feels like an 80s throwback. All of it reminiscent of McKenize’s previous work on the last Muppet film.
Thankfully the comedic performances of Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, some of the cameos, Kermit the Frog, and Miss Piggy, along with the musical splendor of Bret McKenzie gives the film some of the Muppet spirit needed to make Muppets Most Wanted a Muppet movie. But the lack of slapstick comedy and goofy gags keep this sequel from being better than the original.