When The Muppets returned to the big screen back in 2011, it was definitely something special. Writer and star Jason Segel got everything just right – he gave us the Muppets that we loved. It was silly, funny, charming and had a great deal of heart. I was unsure of what to expect with the sequel Muppets Most Wanted, as Segel has absolutely nothing to do with it. On the one hand, I was worried that his presence (and perhaps more importantly his writing) would be missed, but on the other how could The Muppets disappoint?
I am sorry to say that his presence and writing was in fact missed, and I was a bit disappointed with this latest Muppet effort. That doesn’t mean that it sucked, but it is not to the standard of Segel’s masterpiece.
The storyline for the sequel involves Kermit being mistaken for the Worlds most dangerous frog and #1 on the Most Wanted list, Constantine, a Russian criminal who looks exactly like Kermit. Kermit is replaced by Constantine as the head of The Muppets, unbeknownst to the rest of the Muppet crew, as he takes them around the world on his crime spree. There are chunks of the film set in a Siberian Gulag, filled with Russian criminals – there is a chance some will try and tie this into the current issues surrounding Russia at the moment, however this is nothing more than bad timing. This is a U rated film and has absolutely no ties back to the current events, so won’t we dwell on this aspect.
I think where Muppets Most Wanted falls down, is that this film is centred around, and spends the majority of time on a Muppet that we have never seen before, we barely see our original favourites, Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie etc… and see even less of the 2011 protagonist Walter. Constantine is funny for a while, with his thick Russian accent, with the running joke that none of the other Muppets notice this. However, I soon tired of him, and was wishing to see more of the real Kermit.
As expected, the film is ladened with musical numbers, with Bret McKenzie returning from the 2011 effort with more original songs. These are catchy, funny and incredibly witty – although in my opinion peaked with the first number as the stand out song in the film. The songs helped to pick the film up, and combat the disappointing elements of Muppets Most Wanted, as these get to show the strength of the Muppets, and just how entertaining they can be.
Also, as expected, the film features a number of cameo appearances – although I felt these weren’t utilized as well as they were in 2011, and weren’t quite as relevant. Where in 2011 I was left thinking, “Wow, it’s great they got them to be in this”, this time around, for probably at least 50% of the cameos I was left thinking “Huh, haven’t seen them in a while…”.
The Muppets always have great human characters playing alongside them, and this was sort of the case in Most Wanted. Holding my hands up as not the biggest Ricky Gervais fan (despite my love of The Office (original UK Version)), and although having his moments, he just didn’t quite do it for me. It felt like he was holding back, and the combination of him and Constantine isn’t a patch on Walter and Jason Segel. However, Ty Burrell definitely delivers in his role as Jean Pierre Napoleon, an Interpol detective paired up with Sam the Eagle. Burrell gives this role his absolute all, and is effortlessly charming, funny, and bounces off Sam the Eagle fantastically. Tina Fey is the third most utilized human in the ensemble and is more funny than she isn’t. Nothing to write home about, but a pretty solid effort.
Although I left slightly disappointed, Muppets Most Wanted definitely has its moments. Even though we don’t see nearly enough of our favourite Muppets, we do get glimpses of the Muppet brilliance. I usually aren’t a fan of the fourth wall being broken, however when the Muppets do it, I love it. They are great at acknowledging themselves for what they are, and when the fourth wall is broken, it is always funny. The film isn’t a total write off and at a few points did have me laughing out loud. Which I could do as loud as I wanted, as for the first time ever I had the entire screen to myself. Which I am still finding hard to believe as this was an advanced screening…
If you get a chance and are a Muppet fan (how could you not be?) you probably should go and see it, even if just to say you have seen it. You will at least get some enjoyment out of it, just not as much as you could have, and is still possible as proved by the 2011 film. You will also get the delight of a Pixar Monsters University short at the beginning, which is incredibly funny. Where the Muppets will go from here, I am not sure. Perhaps Segel did the right thing of quitting while the Muppets were still ahead. Hopefully the next effort will be better, although I can’t see Segel making a return to the Muppets – can anybody come in and fill those large shoes?
A mediocre 5/10