‘Muppets Most Wanted’ Review

Published 6 months ago by , Updated August 15th, 2014 at 9:21 pm,

The Muppet Cast Muppets Most Wanted Muppets Most Wanted Review

In Muppets Most Wanted, Kermit and the gang attempt to capitalize on their return to fame, following their heart-warming reunion in The Muppets, by taking their show on a global tour. Despite initial protests from Kermit, who thinks the group needs to hone their act at home in America, the Muppets hit the worldwide stage – thanks to their new publicist, and conniving international thief, Dominic Badguy (played by Ricky Gervais).

Badguy is “Number Two” to world-renowned criminal, and Kermit the Frog lookalike, Constantine – who secretly places the Muppet leader in a Siberian gulag and, subsequently, takes Kermit’s place on the tour. While Kermit repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) attempts to escape the prison, run by musical-loving Nadya (Tina Fey), Constantine and Badguy use the Muppet tour as a front for high profile museum heists – with a plan to escape justice by framing Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the gang for their thievery.

Kermit Fozzie Animal Walter Muppets Most Wanted Muppets Most Wanted Review

Kermit, Fozzie, Animal, and Walter in ‘Muppets Most Wanted’

Writer/actor/producer/Muppet-lover Jason Segel was heavily involved in development of The Muppets (2011), co-writing the script with Nicholas Stoller, and is often credited for the clever connection between the Muppet reunion story and thoughtful social commentary. Since Segel is not involved with the Muppets Most Wanted production, returning director James Bobin added co-writing (with Stoller) to his duty list this round. Unfortunately, whereas the sequel serves as an enjoyable Muppet adventure, Bobin and Stoller do not find the same nostalgia and cultural reflection that made The Muppets such a special film for both adults and children, alike. Muppets Most Wanted possesses all the components of a quality Muppet sequel – a kid-friendly message, celebrity cameos, catchy tunes, and quirky Muppet humor – but falls short in evolving the format in any meaningful (or particularly imaginative) way.

The main storyline is a competent but hollow foundation that drives Constantine’s malevolent agenda, provides reason for region-specific cameos (Christoph Waltz in Germany, for example), and will help sell the movie at foreign box offices, no doubt. Yet, in spite of international settings, Muppets Most Wanted doesn’t actually make much use of the various cities that are included – focusing on regional variations of the Muppet Show as well as each performance’s respective Constantine caper instead of allowing the Muppets time to cause actual mischief in the streets. Kermit’s stay in the gulag is equally entertaining moment-to-moment but relies heavily on familiar prison gags and tropes. Watching the famous amphibian try to corral a group of deadly prisoners into performing musical numbers is funny at face value but the scenes are lacking in trademark Muppet whit – which, in the past, turned worn-out jokes on their head for fresh and notable effect.

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Tina Fey and Kermit in ‘Muppets Most Wanted’

Muppet fans will be happy to see a large number of franchise characters present in Muppets Most Wanted – including a few that were not featured in The Muppets. As with most Muppet adventures, A-listers like Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and sophomore star Walter, are heavily featured – drawing from classic series dynamics (Miss Piggy is planning her wedding to Kermit) while others are simply thrown in to round out the cast or contribute to a key moment. Overall, the Muppets Most Wanted spends less time developing or exploring new facets of the Muppet cast and simply relishes in watching established characters in motion.

That said, Constantine is an amusing addition – especially since his complete disinterest in the near-sixty year old Muppet Show helps highlight what’s so great about the franchise in the first place. Watching the evil Muppet attempt to mimic Kermit’s most iconic scenes or mispronounce key character names (Zongo instead of Gonzo) is an example of sharp Muppet humor that will keep kids as well as nostalgic adults engaged.

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Ricky Gervais and Constantine in ‘Muppets Most Wanted’

Human characters always take a back seat to their Muppet co-stars but the flesh and blood participants in Muppets Most Wanted are exceptionally thin. Segel and Amy Adams played quirky foils to the Muppets but they also served as a relatable entry point for moviegoers. For the sequel, nearly every human player is reduced to a cartoonish antagonist – without smart satire to differentiate their characters from cliches the film is parodying. Tina Fey’s prison guard, Nadya, offers an equal balance of clever and downright eye-rolling comedy beats – playing-up Russian stereotypes (and an overblown accent) for cheap laughs. Similarly, while Ty Burrell’s Jean Pierre Napoleon benefits from a fun French vs. American rivalry with Sam the Eagle, most of the pair’s recurring jokes become less (not more) enjoyable with every attempt.

Gervais is given slightly more to do, especially in the third act, but Badguy doesn’t present very many captivating surprises (example: Chris Cooper’s rap in The Muppets) that would differentiate him from the countless evildoers our Muppet heroes have faced over the years. Despite his character’s larger aspirations Gervais really is “Number Two” to Constantine on screen.

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Ty Burrell and Sam the Eagle in ‘Muppets Most Wanted’

In keeping with the rest of the film, the songs in Muppets Most Wanted are also enjoyable but mostly unremarkable. Constantine’s “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” is the most entertaining of the songs, successfully playing-off bubble-gum pop music while also hammering home the film’s main message: sometimes what you think you want isn’t what you really want. Miss Piggy’s “Something So Right” and Tina Fey’s “The Big House” get major boosts from a pair of surprise cameos but, without their respective onscreen comedy hijinks, aren’t particularly inventive.

Muppets Most Wanted is a solid Muppets movie. Kids and Muppet fans will find plenty to enjoy but nearly every element of the production fails to capture the same heart and larger social relevance that was on display in Segel, Stoller, and Bobin’s 2011 collaboration. Still, while Muppets Most Wanted isn’t likely to wow casual filmgoers who gave The Muppets a chance three years ago, it accomplishes its primary goal – providing another enjoyable adventure with Jim Hensen’s lovable creations.

If you’re still on the fence about Muppets Most Wanted, check out the trailer below:

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Muppets Most Wanted runs 112 minutes and is Rated PG for some mild action. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5
(Good)

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TAGS: Muppets Most Wanted, the muppets

12 Comments

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  1. This weekend I’m hoping to enjoy the third greatest gift with my greatest gift. Afterwards, maybe we’ll enjoy the second greatest gift.

    • Professor! Haven’t seen you in awhile! Maybe I’ve just missed your posts.

      • I was sucked into a polar vortex…seriously, frozen water lines galore. I’ve been working non-stop.

  2. Am I the only one who still hasn’t seen 2011′s The Muppets BECAUSE of said “social relevance”?

    “Muppets Most Wanted” sounds much more like an actual Muppets movie to me.

    For those who have seen both 2011′s entry and this one… Is it necessary to have seen “The Muppets” in order to jump into this one?

    • The original was about reuniting the Muppets so a lifelong fan can become one himself. They make a couple passing remarks about that premise, and the movie starts exactly where the original left off. If you can ignore those two references then there’s no real need to watch the previous one if you don’t want to.

    • By letting your political views cloud your judgement, you missed out on a great movie. The Muppets was funny and heartwarming. Your loss dude, your loss.

    • What “social relevance”? Was there some controversy that I missed?

      Anyway, it would help to see the 2011 film to a small degree, but I would recommend watching int mostly because I felt it was much better than Muppets Most Wanted.

  3. My son loved it ! A great family movie.

    Another sequel please.

  4. I really want to watch it, but I’m having trouble looking past Burrell, Fey and Gervais, none of whom I’ve ever enjoyed in anything(except Gervais’ hosting the Golden Globes and Burrell being bearable on Modern Family).

  5. Very, very disappointed with Muppets Most Wanted. Maybe others will enjoy it more, but for me, it was just a parade of extremely tired cliches. I cannot emphasize that enough.

    I love Ty Burrell, and he was more or less the only thing that I like about this film, aside from a few random gags. Gervais was blander than cardboard.

    The previous film was very charming, IMHO, and I went into this one optimistic. Unfortunately, I’m now feeling incredulous about future Muppets movies.

  6. It’s ‘Henson,’ not ‘Hensen.’ Maybe you shouldn’t be reviewing Muppet films if you can’t spell the name of their creator. How embarrassing.

  7. I just saw this movie, and I enjoyed it. It told a good story, and I had no problem staying through to the end.

    I grew up watching all the Muppet TV shows. I have seen some of the Muppet movies, but not all of them and not the 2011 one.

    Just like the TV show, some jokes were better than others. I especially liked the Dublin audience. I liked the Gulag “A Chorus Line.” A lot of it was fun, some was forgettable but not bothersome.

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