Movie Review: Muppets Most Wanted
It’s not easy being The Muppets.
After the passing of Jim Henson in 1990, it has felt like our favorite felt characters have had to scrabble along the road of life to stay relevant in the eyes of the media.
There was an attempt in 1996 to bring the characters back into Prime Time with Muppets Tonight, a modern-day revival of The Muppet Show, that only lasted 2 seasons.
The characters also returned to the big screen three times in the 1990’s, but future projects like the Muppet characters in a version of The Wizard of Oz, only got as far as television. As well, the characters became commercial pitch persons for the likes of Pizza Hut at one point.
And then, salvation came in the form Jason Segel, who upon finding out Disney wasn’t doing anything with the Muppets, practically begged to be given the chance to bring back his childhood heroes.
While it wasn’t the most original concept (save the long-dormant Muppet Studios from an evil oil tycoon), Segel’s film was both fun and heartfelt, that kick-in-the-pants that reminded many of us that we’d love to see these characters putting on a show for us once again. 2011’s film also garnered an Oscar win for its song, Man or Muppet.
Sadly, Segel’s hopes that the movie would reignite a new televised Muppet Show didn’t come to pass, but the studio did greenlight a sequel, which brings us to Muppets Most Wanted.
The film picks up right where the second film ends…literally. Fireworks spelling out The End dissipate, and all those dancing extras clear Hollywood Blvd, leaving our friends to wonder what to do next. Noticing that the camera is still running, it is decided that the studio apparently wants a sequel!
Things get rolling when an international tour manager named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) convinces the group that they should take their act overseas on a European Tour. Though Kermit feels that the group should work on honing their skills since they’ve just gotten back together again, he gives in to his friend’s pleas to do the international road show.
While in Germany, Kermit finds himself face-to-green-face with recently escaped criminal mastermind, Constantine. Kermit is then mistaken for Constantine, and taken to a Siberian prison. Meanwhile, Constantine attempts to fool the other Muppets, who don’t seem at all perplexed why their friend’s voice seems oddly different.
Muppets Most Wanted has one of those thankless tasks when it comes to the following of a film re-uniting a familiar cast. That big question of: now what? The answer becomes a film that is trying to be intimate, but tries to be bigger and better than the first film.
It also feels that once the film starts, it tries to out run itself to get to the mistaken identity portion of the plot. Scenes were flying by so fast, I was trying to comprehend what I had just seen on several occasions. As well, several of the songs just flew by, making it difficult to properly comprehend what was being said.
The character of Constantine has some pretty funny moments, but it can get a little ridiculous that the Muppets seem to be operating on “cartoon logic” when believing that Constantine is Kermit. He also gets a few decent song-and-dance moments, thanks to Brett McKenzie, returning to do song duty on the film.
When it comes to humans, the first film’s stars Gary and Mary (aka Jason Segal and Amy Adams) are long gone. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey do decent work as the main humans in the film, but feel like they are upstaged by the Muppet cast almost every single time. Most of what we see, almost makes them out to be little more than extended cameos in the film. Speaking of cameos, there are a number of celebrity cameos in this one, and props to you if you can spot them all (I’m an old-timer, and most of them just flew by me).
Throughout the film, there’s talk about family and its importance, but there’s just so much going on within the film, that it never really feels this message is fully grounded like it was in say, 2011’s The Muppets, or even 1984’s The Muppets Take Manhattan.
It’s strange to think how with all those characters in the 2011 film, it still felt like everyone got a chance to shine. Here, it feels like only a handful of the Muppet cast are given any screentime. Even the newest member of the cast named Walter, seemed shoehorned in because the first film claimed he had to be there. There are cameos also given to some lesser-seen Muppets, including one that I never would have expected to ever see again (and not many will recognize him/it/etc).
It pains me to say that Muppets Most Wanted is a “passable” Muppet film. I did guffaw out loud several times, and several of the films songs stuck with me, but it just did not hold together as well as its predecessor. I can’t imagine anyone outright hating the film, but it is just not as satisfying. It’s a madcap international romp, that feels like it left its heart on Hollywood Blvd at the beginning of the film (or the end of the first film, depending on your point-of-view).
I will say that I did get a little teary-eyed at the end of the credits, when a notation came up dedicating the film to the late Jane Henson, and Jerry Nelson. It’s always nice when they reference those who have passed on, and left a major mark on something as creative as these characters.
Much like what was done with 2011’s The Muppets, Disney has attached an animated short to the film before it starts. This time, they have Party Central, a short related to the world of Monsters University. The short was originally set to play before PIXAR’s The Good Dinosaur, but a recent pulling of that film for reworking shifted it to be placed before Most Wanted.
The fraternity Oozma Kappa is attempting to throw a party, but it seems everyone is more interested in a major party happening at one of the other frat houses on campus. Enter Mike and Sully, who have come to help their friends turn their luck around.
The short was shown in its entirety at August 2013’s D23 Expo, and seeing it again, I was just as entertained now as I was then. It’s sad to admit, but Party Central held together in a more entertaining ball of awesome, than Muppets Most Wanted.