PROS: catchy music, funny lyrics and a few funny moments
CONS: underutilizes the cast and cameos, slightly confusing, too long, the Muppets are morose and 'less fun'
There are some movies that don’t require any real purpose to exist. They don’t need a good premise to have a sequel, much less contain any real character development. Some movies simply exist for the fun of it; “The Muppets: Most Wanted” is one of these movies—or at least, it tries to be. With a premise so random and at many times confusing, it fails to add anything new to the Muppets’ story. But, in a series where the characters have shared the screen with aliens and pirates, are you really counting on it to have a story that makes any real sense?
Director James Bobin returns with a mess of a “dramedy” that continues to follow the same morose Muppets from the last film, as they struggle to find their place in a modern world where they cease to be relevant. It begins immediately where the last film left off, the opening number warning us how desperate they are to make this movie a hit sequel in an attempt to prove that they’re a viable franchise. And we laugh because the lyrics are funny, but little do we know that they’re actually quite serious. They’re desperate….oh, so very desperate, to make this movie bigger and better than the first one.
“Most Wanted” called everybody in the phonebook, cluttering the screen with cameos ranging from Danny Trejo to Chloe Moretz, not including the leads: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey—all of whom already have their individually successful comedy shows. Yet, the writers pass on many comedic opportunities by completely underutilizing them, giving their stars mundane roles that are stripped down to bad accents and no elbow room for improvisation. Even Ricky Gervais looks bored on screen, appearing stiff in the dance numbers, trying not to do one step too many. And Ty Burrell does his best Inspector Clouseau (of “The Pink Panther”) impression, leaving me to wonder why they didn’t just get Steve Martin for the part. Overall, the cameos and stars never become more than set pieces, every line they deliver feeling like it’s being read from a cue cards, nobody straying from the script in even the slightest bit.
The real fun starts whenever the music does, written by Flight of the Conchords’’ Bret McKenzie, who worked on the music in the last film as well. Aside from a couple of misses, the music is ultimately the saving grace of this movie, reminding us of the range of the Muppets’ humor. And of course, it’s always great seeing them doing what they do best by performing on stage in the Muppet Show.
Kids will find a lot to enjoy here, despite it feeling more of an adult themed film. Kirmit continues his struggle to find new ways to keep the group hopeful for a ‘comeback’, and the group struggles to find new ways to believe that he can lead them back into the spotlight. It’s an on-the-fence musical drama that has a hard time figuring out what exactly it wants to fulfill. Will the kids see it that way? No, not at all. They’ll see puppets, dancing, music, and kirmit, and they’ll enjoy it nonetheless.
“The Muppets: Most Wanted” is a messy chapter in the series that neither adds or takes away from it. But, by completely underutilizing every cameo and retreading on almost the exact same ground as the first film, it makes it increasingly difficult to get excited about whatever happens next. And mid-way the films ending becomes one that can’t come soon enough. Director James Bobin's decision to trade in the Muppets of yesteryear for more morose Muppets is one that makes for a more 'mature' film which skimps on fun.
Regardless, kids will have plenty to enjoy and adults will find enough to remain amused by, but little to remain entertained by.