I wanted to love this movie, but when it opened with a song
called “We’re Doing a Sequel” I felt my body tense up. Meta-entertainment has
its place, but too much self-awareness can be risky, especially with characters
who are so lovable and sincere. Muppets
Most Wanted reunites the team that made The
Muppets in 2011 (minus actor-writer-producer Jason Segel), including
director James Bobin, writer Nicholas Stoller and songwriter Bret McKenzie, but
the film never feels effortless or organic, and that’s the fundamental problem.
Everyone is trying too hard.
In best Muppet show-biz tradition, the movie winds up being
a backstage yarn about the troupe going on a world tour, planned by sleazy
manager Ricky Gervais—except that Kermit has been replaced by an evil Russian
lookalike, the world’s most dangerous frog. The setting shifts from one major
European capitol to another, to minimal effect. Ty Burrell shows up as a
Clouseau-like French inspector, while Tina Fey is the warden of a gulag in Russia
where poor Kermit is imprisoned (along with such unlikely inmates as Ray Liotta
and Danny Trejo). There are many songs along the way, but none of them has
staying power and at least one, a duet by Miss Piggy and Céline Dion, has you
wondering if it’s supposed to be taken seriously…or not.
Is the picture still likable? Of course; we’re talking about
Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy and other old favorites (along with Walter, the
newest member of the troupe who was introduced in the 2011 movie). Are the many
celebrity guest-star cameos fun? Some of them are, while others seem arbitrary
Even an unexceptional Muppet movie is better than none, and
it’s good to see these wonderful characters back on the big screen. But if
we’re being honest, they deserve a better vehicle than this.