As a follow up to 2011’s The Muppets, the Disney-fied revival of Jim Henson’s legendary felt comedy troupe, it’s fitting that Muppets Most Wanted fashions itself as a heist caper, since the second Muppet film ever, The Great Muppet Caper, did so successfully back in 1981. Sadly, while the film is bolstered by amusing gags, it ultimately doesn’t offer much else.
Now that the gang is back together from the end of the first film, what else is there to do but put on a sequel. Most Wanted opens with its high point, a self-referential musical number about sequels, and then throws our gang into the arms of Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who books them on a world tour against Kermit’s better judgement. Badguy is the second in command to Constantine, a dangerous Kermit lookalike who replaces our favorite amphibian and ingratiates himself to the Muppets by doing what Kermit would never do: letting them do whatever they want. Meanwhile, Kermit is sent off to finish Constantine’s sentence in a Siberian gulag, where Nadya (Tina Fey) is the warden, and Jean-Pierre (Ty Burrell) from Interpol and CIA Agent Sam the Eagle investigate a series of museum break-ins.
Plot should always be subordinate to laughs in a Muppets film, but Most Wanted’s three plot lines overshadow the stage theater bits and other comedic diversions. The few times where the music, laughs, and story all intersect are a joy, especially the integration number that is wonderfully silly and advances the plot. Outside of these moments, however, the film just felt flat to me.
I think a large part of this can be attributed to Kermit being separated from all of the characters for most of the film. The gulag idea is a perfectly fine idea for a quick sketch, but there’s not any substance to justify spending so much time on it. Ditto for Constantine. As amusing as a frog with a vaguely Eastern European accent trying to imitate Kermit’s distinct voice is, the luster wears out long before the film is done with it.
Those with a deep affinity for the characters will certainly enjoy the film, but will leave feeling somewhat unsatisfied given that this film is focused on fun over characters. Muppets Most Wanted is a perfectly fine follow up to the previous film, and while it addresses some of that film’s issues, it doesn’t necessarily aspire to anything greater.
Muppets Most Wanted opens in Philly area theaters today.