It’s time to start the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets once again in ‘Muppets Most Wanted‘, the eighth theatrical film in the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite Frog led gang. Back in 2011, the characters made a huge comeback in ‘The Muppets’, a new rebooted continuation of the series, that starred, as well as being written by, Jason Segel, and directed by James Bobin. The film was a smash hit, and brought the Muppets back to the limelight in the best way possible, as well as introducing us to the newest Muppet, Walter. Not long after the first film’s release, a sequel was commissioned, which would see James Bobin return to direct, and Segel’s co-writer, Nicholas Stoller, coming back to pen the screenplay. Something that was made abundantly clear as ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ began, was that the meta nature of the last few films was still there, but so much of the heart and soul that Segel brought to the film seemed to be lacking, and the film seems to know it too.
‘Muppets Most Wanted‘ opens immediately after the final moments of ‘The Muppets’, and sees the characters at a loss at what to do now. When a mysterious gentlemen named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) arrives, he offers to be the group’s new manager. Kermit is reluctant, but gives in to the demands of everyone else, against his better judgment. But Dominic hasn’t been completely honest, and is actually working with Constantine, the world’s number one criminal, and almost identical look alike to Kermit. Tailed by a French Inspector, Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), as well as a Russian prison warden, Nadya (Tina Fey), the Muppets unwittingly find themselves caught in the middle of a international capper, where their adventure goes from fun to crazy in quick succession.
When you think of The Muppets, you think of their crazy adventures, but not just that, the heart inside what the story they’re trying to tell is. That’s something that has always made the best films in their series stand taller than the lesser entries, and the last film, ‘The Muppets’, really showed that. The core story of Walter, a huge Muppet fan who wasn’t sure if he was a man or a muppet, really worked well. You loved the character, and you cared about his story. Unfortunately, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ does a story we’ve seen before, where The Muppets don’t realize how much they need Kermit, and when he is switched for Constantine, no one notices he’s gone. So while the story of Kermit is center stage, it’s not exactly something we haven’t seen before. Especially considering how much effort was spent on Walter in the last film, to have him put on the back burner for most of the film, is irritating. Segel’s behind the scenes touch on the last film gave the film that extra heart, as he loved the characters and knew how they ticked, so the film worked really well for that reason. It was also new and fresh, because we’d never really seen the idea of man or muppet before. Here, it’s just not the same, and it feels very “been there, done that”.
Thankfully, while the film doesn’t have the heart of its predecessor, it has got some great humor. One thing that has always made The Muppets stand above the rest is that their humor is smart, and it will please kids and adults alike. There’s nothing talking down to kids, or being so dumb that parents aren’t enjoying themselves. The jokes are fast and furious, and they hit a wide range. One personal favorite comes during the film’s opening number, ‘We’re Making a Sequel’, the filmmakers managed to fit in a reference to the Ingmar Bergman film, ‘The Seventh Seal’, which is wonderful. The film also features some great homages to film’s like ‘The Pink Panther’, ‘The Great Escape’, and so many more. For adults, these are some of the best parts of the film, and they’ll put a big smile on their face. Kids will laugh at much of the absurdity of the situations, and the way the characters interact together. If there’s one thing that Bobin and Stoller do well, is balancing the humor between childish and smart, and that makes the film work that much better. The music is quite good as well, but it’s too bad there’s not a great show stopping tune, like the last film’s ‘Man or Muppet?’, which is one many still find themselves humming two years later.
As fun as so much of the film is, it just seems like too many of The Muppets don’t get enough screen time. The sequel is so cameo heavy, to the point that it’s almost distracting, that it takes away from time that we could spend with our favorite characters. Characters like Gonzo, Walter, and Fozzie Bear seem to be relented to small parts, where they finally become important in the third act. Though, Constantine, the film’s central villain, is a wonderful character, and is a great new addition to the series. He’s just over the top, and so much fun, and his presence almost makes up for the other characters short time on screen. The human actors are all really wonderful, and fit so well into the world. Ricky Gervais is so good as Dominic Badguy, and he brings a fun sleaziness to the character. Ty Burrell’s Jean Pierre is a great send up to Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau, from the ‘Pink Panther’ series of films, and he’s so over the top and fun. His work with Sam Eagle, who actually gets a great chunk of screen time, prove to be some of the film’s most memorable scenes. Tina Fey is wonderful as Naday, the Russian Prison warden, and she brings the film a lot of laughs. She spends a bulk of hte movie with Kermit, and the two play off each other so well.
There’s a reason the Muppets are most wanted, because they continue to steal our hearts. While the film doesn’t feature the most emotionally satisfying arc in the series, like the previous film did, the film still has a sweet core. Not all the characters get a lot of moments to shine, but at least the humor is there and makes the film work. The music is good, the musical numbers are fun, and the film features some new interesting and great characters. Kids and adults are sure to be pleased with the newest entry in the Muppets franchise, as are fans of the series, and it’ll be fun to see where the series will go from here.