Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted photo starrating-3stars.jpgHistory repeats itself. Much in the same way that The Muppets (2011) was a reboot of The Muppet Movie (1979) so too does Muppets Most Wanted (2014) follow in the burglar footsteps of The Great Muppet Caper (1981). The Muppets burst out singing in their opening number “We’re Doing a Sequel.“ In a nod that acknowledges a regrettable reality, they sing “And everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good.” I wish I could say the lyrics were just a lighthearted bit of self-depreciation but the acknowledgement is sadly prescient.

In this go-around the gang are led astray by a slick manager named Dominic Badguy. That’s pronounced “Bad-JEE” he says. “It’s French.“ That’s a well written line. He convinces the Muppets to take their act on a worldwide international tour. Kermit’s better judgment warns that renting out the largest theater in Berlin for their opening-night performance is probably not a smart idea. But strangely he turns out to be wrong and the show sells out. Dominic‘s increasingly outlandish ideas and ‘say yes to everything’ attitude secures favor in the group. As he gains their confidence, he secretly replaces Kermit with Constantine, the World’s Most Dangerous Frog. Save for a mole on his upper lip Constantine is a dead ringer for Kermit in appearance. His personality on the other hand, is quite different. Constantine and Dominic work together as a team although the evil frog’s song “I’m Number One” clearly delineates their relationship. Meanwhile Kermit is correspondingly mistook for the master criminal and thrown into a Russian Gulag.

Most of the ingredients are here to have another success. Director James Bobin is back as director. He also co-wrote the script with Nicholas Stoller who returns as well. Bret McKenzie is doing the music again. The songs stand on their own, but are less essential to the narrative this time around. They’re often shoe-horned into a scene forcing the action to take an abrupt stop rather than truly adding to the mood.  Jemaine Clement, the other half of McKenzie’s comedic Flight of the Conchords duo, plays one of Kermit’s fellow inmates at the prison. Despite all the returning talent, this doesn’t have the sincerity or integrity of the previous entry. I have to wonder if the missing ingredient is Jason Segel. His presence is nowhere to be found.  He not only co-wrote The Muppets but he added a human element as an actor that gave the story a genuine warmth. I’ve already mentioned Ricky Gervais as the central villain. He‘s entertaining. Ty Burrell is an Inspector Clouseau type paired up with Sam the Eagle who plays his American counterpart at the CIA. The two are investigating a string of bank robberies. He is very amusing as French Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon. But Tina Fey is wasted as Nadya, a Russian prison guard that has the hots for Kermit. That’s a shame because her part is a sizeable chunk of the movie. Unfortunately she is given little to do other than affect an exaggerated accent and mug for the camera. It’s a poorly written role. None of her scenes are funny. Oh alright maybe one.

Muppets Most Wanted is a respectable entry. It’s impossible not to enjoy the return of Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, et al. These characters are enduring personalities for a reason. It’s really a pleasure seeing the old gang reunited in anything at this point. The Muppets was a heartwarming confection. It mixed in a lot of sweetness amongst the self knowing cynical jokes to make it one of the best releases of 2011. It made my Top 10 of that year in fact. Muppets Most Wanted, in contrast, is a collection of scattershot humor that never quite gels into a cohesive whole. It has positive qualities, but much of the story is just a setup for gags. The story doesn’t really add up. Case in point: Dominic Badguy’s master plan, actually costs an insane amount of money to make it work. It also takes the entire film for Kermit’s lifelong friends (with the exception of Animal) to even notice his personality shift.  The fact is a little hard to swallow.  Constantine speaks with a bizarre Russian accent to boot so he doesn’t even sound like Kermit. I’m nitpicking. These issues are unimportant if the laughs are there. There are some sprinkled throughout but they are mild chuckles rather than actual knee-slappers. The picture’s funniest parts, like the “my badge is bigger than yours” bit, were shown in the trailer. The best production number hints at what could have been. When Miss Piggy turns to singer Celine Dion in a moment of crisis, the vocal pairing of the two divas is hilarious. As the two duet on “Something So Right”, the production hits a high note of lunacy that is truly inspired.

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18 Responses to “Muppets Most Wanted”

  1. SInce I haven’t seen the 2011 edition, I probably will sit out on this one too. Especially if it’s not as good. I am very curious about the first reboot, though. If it made your Best of list in that year it has to be pretty darn good! :)

    • I am often impressed how you seemingly see every single movie that comes out regardless of quality (Need for Speed). But then there are these critically acclaimed / popular films that you haven‘t. (The Muppets, Brave, the entire Harry Potter series).

      How does that happen? ;-)

      • lol in all honesty I went in to Need for Speed as a fan of the videogame but i pretty much knew I was headed for disaster. I was actually not a big fan of the Muppets growing up. That part might be the harder pill to swallow. ;)

  2. I’m not a huge Muppets fan to be honest, and even less so seeing that Ricky Gervais is in this.

  3. I am a huge fan of the Muppets. “Animal” and “Miss Piggy”, have always been my favorites. This movie was pretty good, but not great. I liked the songs more than the movie itself. Ty Burrel was a standout for me, he did a hilarious job. Overall, I’d have to give this 3 stars.

  4. This is a shame. I actually liked the first movie. Like, a lot. And I know you enjoyed it more.;..

  5. I haven’t finished this yet (because my two and a half year old decided it was too scary), but I saw the first 30 minutes or so. And I had many of the same thoughts – it was fun, entertaining, but not as good as the first.

    We’ll see if my thoughts change when I finally see the rest of it.

    • Scary? Interesting. You saw this in a theater or at home?

      • The theater. At her request. But the beginning focuses so much on the villains and so little on the heroes that she found herself unable to cope.

      • Finally finished it, this time by myself and at home. I agree with most of your thoughts. I think it a touch funnier than you do, though.

        Still, that this misses a Jason Segel or Amy Adams type character hurts it a lot. So too do the songs, which don’t nearly equal the original film’s. It’s not bad. But it ain’t great either.

      • Sounds like we’re pretty much on the same page. :-)

  6. Overall I think I enjoyed Muppets Most Wanted a little more than you, but I’m biased because I’m a huge Muppet fan. Sam the Eagle is my favorite character from the group, so I was thrilled to see him get more screen time. However their running gags start to get a little old toward the end and I completely agree that the songs don’t work as well. They feel shoehorned into scenes as you said and there’s a sincerity missing that was palpable in the prior film. I don’t know if that was Segel or just songs that came more from the heart. This time I feel like the tunes sound more like classic Muppets material, yet none are particularly memorable aside from the opening number.

    • I’ve been a lifelong Muppets fan since The Muppet Show in the 1970s. I’m pretty biased too, but I also know how great these characters can be.

      Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy the music a lot. I bought the soundtrack. I just didn’t think it melded with the story like the songs in a good musical should.

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