Muppets Most Wanted is basically Little Caesars Pizza. It’s not especially good, but it’s pizza. It’s still moderately satisfying, as pizza tends to be, even as the ingredients that it consists of are rather mediocre. It would take a significant lack of talent to make a movie with the Muppets that doesn’t have at least a few good gags; the characters are just so rich and established.
The film joins Kermit and company seconds after the 2011 film. The gang is all back together, ready and willing to go out there and show the somewhat hungry audience what they’ve got. Everyone has an idea, from Gonzo’s on stage running-of-the-bulls to Miss Piggy’s marathon of Celine Dion covers. Kermit’s excited to push the show forward, even as he knows he has to plot the wants and desires of his wild bunch.
In steps two figures. The first is Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), an agent with grand dreams of taking the Muppets on a world tour, claiming to have helped the planet’s biggest acts get even bigger. Kermit is hesitant, while his fellow Muppets are anxious to show their stuff. That’s where our second figure comes in, a dastardly frog fresh from escaping a Russian gulag, who looks identical to our green-guy, except for a black mole about his right lip. He is Constantine, who just happens to be in cahoots with Badguy, and replaces Kermit one evening, leading to a new Muppet-leader and Mr. Rainbow Collection getting shipped halfway across the globe to a frozen prison helmed by a ruthless warden named Nadya (Tina Fey).
All of the ingredients are there for Most Wanted to pop with the best of the Muppets filmography. It always hovers and never soars, leading to an underwhelming experience. James Bobin returns as director, having helmed the 2011 picture, bringing Nicholas Stoller back again for scripting duties. Bobin is listed as a co-writer this time out as well. The film fails to find the balance in its wide-array of characters that their previous collaboration achieved. The heart is equally lacking, a fine occurrence if the jokes were of a high caliber. Instead, the vast majority of Most Wanted’s gags never rise above a mild chuckle.
There are flashes of something special. Ty Burrell plays an Interpol agent who is forced to work with Sam the Eagle to solve a string of robberies tied to Constantine, and the banter is fun, kicking off with a gloriously over-the-top piece about whose badge is bigger. They later share a song where they interrogate the Muppets that is hummable and clever. The scenes in the gulag with Fey pop well too and has one of the only instances of the movies army of cameos that works; a joke featuring Danny Trejo that shall not be spoiled here. The remaining celebrity pop-ins are largely distracting, a misstep of throwing in a famous person doing nothing of note (Frank Langella is a priest, Chloe Grace Moretz delivers a newspaper) and expecting that to be worthwhile.
Those seeking a Muppets fix would be better off watching their other features or, better yet, their old television series.
The Muppets: Most Wanted opens tomorrow all across Seattle.