I’m a die hard Muppet fan, that much should be clear to you all by now, especially considering all of the articles and interviews I did around the release of The Muppets a few years ago. They were a huge part of my childhood, so as an adult (or at least pseudo adult), seeing them in action was sure to be a delight. That was the case 100%, and this time, the gang is back with Muppets Most Wanted, a solid, if lesser, Muppet movie. Returning co-writer/director James Bobin and returning co-writer Nicholas Stoller definitely miss the charm of Jason Segel here, but they are more than up to crafting an enjoyable time with Kermit the Frog and company. If The Muppets was a spiritual cousin to The Muppet Movie last time around, this time around Muppets Most Wanted is sort of in the vein of The Great Muppet Caper, though not quite as clever. This is an enjoyable film, but one that may very well captivate children more than adults. I’m still a fan of this flick and recommend it wholeheartedly, but I didn’t quite find the heart and soul in the same way that I used to. Maybe I’m getting older or maybe Segel was really missed, but the formula felt ever so slightly like formula here, so make of that what you will.
Picking up literally seconds after the last one ended (and leading into a very clever title song about making a sequel), we’re again faced with the Muppets having to put on shows in order to stay afloat. This time though, Kermit, Fozzie, Ms. Piggy, Gonzo, and the rest are working with agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) to book some gigs. Dominic has an ulterior motive, of course, as he and an evil frog named Constantine that looks just like Kermit are planning some daring heists. Before long, they’ve replaced Kermit with Constantine, getting the former thrown into a Siberian Gulag run by Nadya (Tina Fey). Slowly though, Muppets like Walter start to realize that something is up, leading to inevitable hijinks. The plot sometimes tries to get a bit too convoluted for its own good, but when it’s focusing on music, oddball gags, and the surreal nature of the Muppets themselves interacting with humans, the picture is on firm ground. It’s consistently entertaining, if rarely ever genius like some of the prior films in the franchise have been.
As per the usual with a Muppet movie, the human actors and actresses are merely on hand to move things along and/or provide cameos. Without Segel and Amy Adams in larger than normal roles like last time, the three main humans here are Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell. Gervais is the best of the bunch playing a fairly conniving and sniveling villain. It’s clear he’s having a blast. Fey is sort of an extended cameo, with her prison being home to plenty of other cameos, including Jermaine Clement, Ray Liotta, and Danny Trejo. She’s fine, but her section of the flick is mostly one long joke. As for Burrell, he’s an inept INTERPOL agent on the trail of the crimes being committed, and it really felt like he was spoofing Steve Martin‘s take on The Pink Panther. He’s definitely the weak point. Other cameos include Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Frank Langella, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Christoph Waltz, to name a few, with some others best to remain a surprise. As for the voices of the Muppets themselves, they’re all fine, though by now you’ve either accepted that they don’t quite sound like they used to or you haven’t. I’m able to, so the difference doesn’t bother me, personally.
James Bobin has a lot of confidence in working with this characters, so he gets more playful than any other filmmaker has really done in the past with them. Sometimes it works, while sometimes the more action oriented sequences just feel out of place. Bobin and co-writer Stoller definitely know how to do a Muppet movie, though I will say that the love that Segel helped to bring to it isn’t quite there this time. The one big constant from last time that’s still here is the songs written by Bret McKenzie. While none of them are as instantly memorable as Life’s a Happy Song was last time (or even Man or Muppet, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song), they’re all very solid and fit together well. I’d be surprised if one of them didn’t score a nomination this time around, frankly.
Overall, Muppets Most Wanted is a middle of the road adventure for the gang, but it’s not without a bunch of pleasures. Fans of the Muppets like myself will enjoy what’s going on here, and kids on the whole will have a real good time. It may not be as subversive or borderline brilliant as some of the previous flicks have been, but that doesn’t mean that this one isn’t good, since it is. If you’re looking for a cute movie that’s very much a family friendly affair, you can’t go wrong here. This is a film that all of you can enjoy about equally…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!