Movie Review: Muppets Most Wanted

This is a review of the film Muppets Most Wanted. To play with the Muppets on iOS, check out the free download My Muppets Show

The Muppets are a talented troupe of performers with a long history, and like any long-running band, they periodically require a jolt of enthusiasm to renew interest in the franchise. 

2011’s update and reboot The Muppets featured a brilliant script and star performance by Jason Segel, with music by Flight of the Conchord’s Bret McKenzie. New blood was exactly what the Muppets needed, but the sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, feels soulless by comparison.

Much of the production crew from the 2011 film has returned for Muppets Most Wanted, but without Segel, it clearly lacks bite. McKenzie has also returned to write new songs, though without a strong story to give them meaning, they fall flat. The scattered songs are the best thing about Muppets Most Wanted, and that’s not saying much.

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Muppets Most Wanted picks up right after the previous movie, with the Muppets reunited and wondering where to go next. They’re immediately targeted by a shady manager named Dominic Badguy (played by Ricky Gervais), who swindles the Muppets into going on a world tour that serves as cover for a series of international heists. Badguy’s recently-escaped accomplice Constantine the Frog is a dead ringer for Kermit the Frog, and soon the evil amphibian has taken Kermit’s place and left the Muppets’ ringleader to stew in a Siberian gulag.

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All of this happens in the first few minutes of the movie, and the rest unfolds at a plodding pace that feels utterly predictable and boring. Yes, this is a kids’ movie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be clever, original, or exciting for the rest of the family. 2011’s The Muppets offered substantial characters with real emotions, while the human cast of Muppets Most Wanted are talented comedians performing with terrible accents and completely wasted by the lifeless storyline.

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It’s painful to see the brilliant Tina Fey (playing a gulag commandant) and Ty Burrell (an Interpol detective) ham it up and muddle through unnecessary musical numbers. Lazy jokes about European culture (they take eight-week vacations!) seem at odds with the global perspective. It doesn’t matter, though, because the action is mostly confined to theaters and the touring train, plus a mocking portrayal of prison life. For a movie about the Muppets traveling the world, everything seems to take place inside.

With every plotline telegraphed far in advance (Badguy and Constantine’s deception, Ms. Piggy’s broken heart, and Kermit’s wallowing in prison) there is nothing left to do but wait it all out. It’s hard to enjoy watching another Muppets reunion when the heart of the story is so trite. Not even numerous celebrity cameos can liven up the sadly predictable formula, although it does provide a welcome distraction from the plot.

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If you enjoyed 2011’s The Muppets, hold on to those happy memories, because Muppets Most Wanted seeks desperately to return to the bad old days of stale Muppets movies. Relying on celebrity star power and intolerable confusion is a recipe for disaster. It only took one poorly-conceived sequel for the Muppets reboot to need another reboot.

Pros: Original comedy songs; a barrage of celebrity cameos; features a Monsters University short at the beginning

Cons: Terrible plotline; unfunny jokes; predictable outcomes; feels like a total waste of time

Bottom line: Muppets Most Wanted isn’t very funny or engaging, even if you loved the previous Muppets film.

Score: 1 out of 4