Muppets sequel falls short of expectations

In 2011, James Bobin and Jason Segel revived Jim Henson’s beloved Muppets with a surprisingly gleeful, nostalgia-filled box office hit.

Now, three years later, Bobin and the Muppets have returned to grace theaters with the much anticipated follow-up to successful reboot. Unfortunately though, “Muppets Most Wanted” doesn’t quite reach the level of success as its predecessor.

That is not to say that the film isn’t a highly enjoyable Muppet film akin to “The Great Muppet Caper,” rather, it’s a wonderful excuse to see the characters everyone knows and loves, even if it lacks the magic that made Segel’s film so successful.

 

 

“Muppets Most Wanted” takes place just after the first film ended and begins with the characters trying to decide what film to make next. After the film’s first musical number, Dominic Badguy (played by Ricky Gervais, who hams up every moment he possibly can and is clearly having the time of his life sharing screen time with the Muppets) approaches the group with an offer to be their new tour manager and take them on a global tour “while they’re still hot.” After a short discussion, the Muppets agree, and alas, they embark on their worldwide comeback tour.

Meanwhile, Constantine, the worlds most dangerous frog, stages an escape from a secluded Russian gulag, switches places with Kermit, and takes his place in the gang, framing Kermit for a series of high-profile thefts. What results is a case of mistaken identity, a glob-trotting adventure, numerous musical numbers, a plethora of big-name cameos, and of course, laughs galore.

Along the way we meet Ty Burrell’s Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon, a bumbling yet loveable detective working for Interpol who pairs with Sam the Eagle in the investigation into the thefts. Burrell, doing his best Inspector Clouseau impersonation, is one of the films brightest aspects and is an absolute delight to watch. The same can be said for Tina Fey, who plays Nadia, a guard at the gulag Kermit gets thrown into with a strange affinity towards him. Fey garners several big laughs, although her obsession with Kermit takes a turn towards being incredibly creepy at several moments in the film’s latter half.

Returning to write the musical numbers is Bret Mckenzie, who follows the first film and his Oscar win for “Man or Muppet” with songs about sequels, being in “the big house,” and being bad. As always, his lyrics are clever and his tunes catchy. But what else could one expect from the former “Flight of the Concords” star?

Also a high-note is the story’s pacing. It quite literally hits the ground running and propels through an hour-and-a-half of jokes and story. And while the latter does get a bit lost in the process, with characters making choices that make little to no sense even by Muppet standards, it’s nice to see Bobin focusing on a story that allows for the majority of Muppet to Muppet interaction. Sure, it’s nice to see the characters interacting with people, but the movie is, after all, about the Muppets, so it’s nice to see the filmmakers giving audiences their fair share of the characters interacting with each other exclusively.

As with any Muppet film, the roster of cameos is quite impressive. Not since the final 10 minutes of “Anchorman 2” have so many celebrities been seen in one film, with the list including the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta, and Chloē Moretz, just to name a few.

The film’s biggest flaw comes from the lack of Jason Segel. Although it’s hard to put my finger on exactly why it is, the lack of Segel’s Gary and Amy Adams’ Mary just make the film lack the magic it’s predecessor had. Segel’s enthusiasm for the project and his contagious ability to never take himself too seriously helped propel 2011’s “Muppets” to the level that it reached. And with that lacking from “Most Wanted,” the film as a whole fails to land on the same level the previous one does.

At the end of the day, the entire film can be summed up by one line in the film’s opening number in which the characters sing “We’re doing a sequel, it’s what they do in Hollywood / and everybody knows the sequel’s never quite as good.” But even if the film never does reach the heights of its predecessor, it’s still an enjoyable excuse to escape from every day life and watch the Muppets on the big screen.

Reach the reporter at seweinst@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @S_Weinstein95@gmail.com