I loved the last Muppet movie. The songs were great, the jokes/puns hilarious, and the story compelling. But what made it even better was that you, as the viewer, felt like you were right there with Kermit, Walter, and Gary as they tracked down the gang and save their old theater. It wasn’t just a movie about resurrecting the Muppets, it actually was resurrecting them. Gonzo may as well have been working at a toilet factory and Animal stuck in anger management in “real life.” After all, the previous theatrical Muppet film was released in 1999 (Muppets in Space) and the Muppets’ popularity was really on the downswing. But by the end of the film, they were back, to rave reviews, Rainbow Connection and all.
Muppets Most Wanted brings this all crashing down just minutes into the film. Apparently the previous film was a fiction, even in the Muppetverse, as the excited fans were revealed to be paid extras and the Muppets celebrate that the studio has called for a sequel. This revelation sucks all the air out of Muppets Most Wanted, and, as the film progresses, it is simply just missing the heart that The Muppets had. It’s not a bad film, but it seems half-hearted.
There are a few really fun songs, namely “The Interrogation Song,” sung by Sam the Eagle and Ty Burrell’s Jean Pierre Napoleon, and “I’ll Get You What You Want,” performed by Constantine the Frog (Kermit’s impersonator). But the soundtrack never reaches the heights of the last film, where “Man or Muppet” won the Oscar for Best Original Song, and “Life’s a Happy Song,” “Pictures in My Head,” and the new version of “Rainbow Connection” were delivered (with cameos) with finesse and heart. Do we get a new song by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem? No. Kermit doesn’t even get a full song to himself.
Ricky Gervais’ role is wasted. I obviously didn’t expect the usual abrasive Ricky, but he was given very little to work with. Tina Fey is awesome as the strict gulag guardian, and there are some clever cameos (Tom Hiddleston, Josh Groban, and Danny Trejo as Russian inmates for example) but most of the rest seem forced, and certainly don’t approach the charm of Mickey Rooney, Jim Parsons and Alan Arkin from The Muppets.
Maybe I’m not being fair because the previous film was so great, and I’m likely making the movie sound worse than it is. I did enjoy the film, and still love the Muppets. There are some great gags and moments, although it does feel a little more shallow than the previous edition.
My rating: 6 out of 10 stars.