Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Movie Review - Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Starring Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and a whole mess of Muppets
Directed by James Bobin

I was inevitably prepared to be a little let down while watching Muppets Most Wanted after the genius that was The Muppets (the RyMickey Award winner for Best Movie of 2011) -- a film that provided the resurrection and "rebirth" of the Jim Henson-created franchise of characters whom I've loved since I was a wee lad.  I wasn't quite prepared to be let down as much as I was, however.

It's not that Muppets Most Wanted is particularly bad in any way.  It's just that the heart that permeated throughout the humor of The Muppets isn't present this time around.  Granted, Muppets Most Wanted is a completely different beast -- it's a caper adventure with the Muppets trying to solve a crime spree across Europe -- and nothing like the nostalgia trip of director and co-writer James Bobin's first venture with the felt characters.  (Like Bobin, co-writer Nicholas Stoller returns for this flick as well.)  Still, if you're going to drop the emotional aspect, the humor needs to be pumped up and Muppets Most Wanted doesn't adequately succeed in that department.

After having successfully returned to the Hollywood scene thanks to their last movie, The Muppets are trying to decide what to do next to capitalize on their revitalization.  They meet with Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) who in a job interview to be the Muppets' manager suggests that the crew travel across Europe on a world tour.  Despite Kermit's misgivings, our favorite frog is outvoted by his friends and they agree to hire Dominic and head over to Germany to start their tour.  Little do the Muppets know that Dominic is a crook who works for the criminal mastermind known as Constantine.  With the exception of a mole on the right side of his face, Constantine is a dead ringer for Kermit so when Constantine escapes from a Russian gulag run by the hard-nosed Nadya (Tina Fey), he switches places with Kermit and, in a rather Superman/Clark Kent-ian manner, none of the Muppets (except for Walter, introduced in last year's The Muppets) notice a difference.  With Kermit being re-captured and taken back to the gulag, Constantine and Dominic set out on a mission to snatch the Crown Jewels of London, stealing a bunch of other valuable goods along the way as the Muppets travel across Europe.

The plot, while somewhat of a rehash in tone of The Great Muppet Caper, is actually humorously developed, but the film lingers around too long at 110 minutes.  Trimming twenty minutes would've done wonders for Muppets Most Wanted.  [As much as I love Sam Eagle, his lengthy bits with Ty Burrell as CIA and Interpol agents trying to track down the criminals could've all been left on the cutting room floor without me feeling the least bit depressed.]  Without the touching nostalgia of The Muppets and relying strictly on laughs, the flick is guilty of the typical 21st century "movie crime" of being a comedy that overstays its welcome.

Much like the rest of the film falling short of its predecessor, Bret McKenzie's songs don't quite have the same impact as his wonderful, ingenious, and Oscar-winning numbers from the first film.  Granted, there are a few moments thanks to McKenzie's music where the film really comes to life -- the 1970s-inspired "I Can Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)" sung by Contantine (the best moment in the film by far and an early frontrunner for Best Scene of 2014), the power ballad "Something So Wrong" performed by Miss Piggy and Celine Dion (!), and the opening self-referntial number "We're Doing a Sequel" -- but overall they're not as inspired as his first venture into the Muppet realm.

I must confess, though, that perhaps I'm being way too harsh on this.  Any Muppet movie is better than no Muppet movie and maybe if this was the first Muppet movie in over a decade (like the last one was), I'd have felt a little differently.  However, 2011's The Muppets was so fantastic that I can't help but feel let down on this one.  A second viewing with a little perspective at the end of the year perhaps will be necessary to be certain that the rating below is the rating I want to give the film.  But for now Muppets Most Wanted is just...okay.  And that one word -- "okay" -- is the most damning one in the whole review.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+


  1. I actually have not been able to bring myself to watch this one yet considering my love for The Muppets. In fact, I even waited to read your review until now just because I wanted to hope that maybe it would surprise me and be much better than I'm thinking. I'm sure I'll get around to it eventually, but I just have to get my heart ready for it. Thanks for the review! It gives me a good head's up that my suspicions about this one are somewhat well-founded.

  2. Cassie, there's part of me that wonders if my C+ is too harsh. I still find myself choosing the music from iTunes to listen to every now and then and actually enjoying it more than I remember from the film. However, then when I think about the actual movie itself it just wasn't that funny overall and it was just plain too long. Will I watch it again? Definitely, but it really isn't even remotely as close to the AMAZINGNESS that was The Muppets.

    By the way, thanks for still reading!