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'Muppets Most Wanted' doesn't dream big enough

Ricky Gervais and The Muppets in "Muppets Most Wanted".
Ricky Gervais and The Muppets in "Muppets Most Wanted".
© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Muppets Most Wanted


"Muppets Most Wanted" is an entertaining film from start to finish, but it left me a little disappointed after leaving the theater. I grew up watching The Muppets on various shows, television specials, and of course, their theatrical movies. So, at a young age I was already a big fan of The Muppets. A few years ago, I decided to re-watch all of the theatrical Muppet movies. This was before the movie "The Muppets" had come out.

What I found when re-watching these movies with The Muppets is that I loved them. I loved some of them more than I did as a kid. I didn't just like them. I absolutely thought they were all five star classics. That goes for every single theatrical Muppet movie released at that time from "The Muppet Movie" to "Muppets From Space". So, going into "The Muppets" I suppose I had some high expectations.

When I saw "The Muppets" I enjoyed it, but not as much as I enjoyed the other movies. It was good for sure, but it didn't reach the heights of enjoyment that I found when watching all the other Muppet movies. I think the strongest part of "The Muppets" was its music and the weakest part about the movie was its plot. Basically, it felt like a retread of "The Muppet Movie". In a way, it was almost like a remake of that film. I suppose that makes sense as "The Muppets" was a sort of reboot for the franchise, but it still felt a little too familiar to me and lacking in some of the creativity and originality of their other movies.

When I saw the trailer for "Muppets Most Wanted" I was very excited. I still hadn't seen a theatrical Muppet movie that I didn't like and only one of them for me wasn't a total five star classic. I found the trailer for "Muppets Most Wanted" to be hilarious and this also got me excited. Another aspect of the trailer that I liked was that the plot of the movie seemed to be similar to that of "The Great Muppet Caper" which is one of my favorite Muppet movies. However, this also was a problem for me. I felt as if maybe these new Muppet movies were all just remakes of older Muppet movies. "The Muppets" remade their first theatrical outing in "The Muppet Movie" and now this movie looked to be remaking their second theatrical outing in "The Great Muppet Caper". Well, things actually turned out a little different when I finally saw the movie.

"Muppets Most Wanted" actually is quite similar in some ways to a previous Muppet movie, but not the one I expected it to be. While "Muppets Most Wanted" does feature thieves like in "The Great Muppet Caper" it is actually a much more similar movie to the third Muppet movie which was "The Muppets Take Manhattan". The plot of "The Muppets Take Manhattan" involves Kermit being taken out of the picture for a while as he gets amnesia and forgets about his life with The Muppets. The plot of "Muppets Most Wanted" involves Kermit being wrongly sent to prison and replaced in The Muppets by a look-alike criminal. In both movies The Muppets must eventually work to get Kermit back.

That's not the only similarity between "Muppets Most Wanted" and "The Muppets Take Manhattan". Both films also contain a plot about Miss Piggy wanting to get married to Kermit. This is very confusing in "Muppets Most Wanted" because of what happens in "The Muppets Take Manhattan". I thought that these new Muppet movies were part of the same timeline as the old ones, but this movie would seem to imply that they are not. I find this very disappointing. There is no need to reboot The Muppets franchise in this way and it is confusing because I am not entirely sure that they have. The new Muppet movies seem to reference past things that The Muppets have done, but still, this movie acts like a certain event did not happen in a previous Muppet movie.

Here is the thing though: I liked this movie. I didn't find it to be as creative or original as some of the other Muppet movies, but it did have me laughing throughout. It's just that it all felt like I had seen it before. Indeed, even one of the celebrity cameos was from Ray Liotta who had already done a funny cameo in "Muppets From Space". I can't complain too much about that though as you get to see Ray Liotta do things here that you'd never see anywhere else.

The rest of the cast does a very good job as well. Ty Burrell is funny with an Inspector Clouseau-type French accent. Tina Fey is great as the head of a prison and Ricky Gervais is very humorous in his role as the aptly named Dominic Badguy. There are cameos throughout the movie and they are all pretty good.

All in all though, this movie was exactly what I would expect from The Muppets and nothing more. I kept finding myself surprised when I went back and re-watched all the older theatrical Muppet movies. I expected some of them to be bad or at least less than outstanding, but I never found them to be anything but excellent. With "Muppets Most Wanted" I didn't find any surprises. To be fair, a lot of the jokes had already been seen in the many, many trailers I had watched in the months leading up to the movie. Still, I found the movie to be a little too much of a retread of familiar territory.

The original movie from The Muppets, "The Muppet Movie", embraced and encouraged creativity. The closing song of that film is a powerful one that breaks the fourth wall to call out to the audience and specifically address the "dreamers" that are out there. For a while, I felt that The Muppet movies all seemed to enhance this message. The movies were all creative and original even when they were doing adaptations of famous stories that had been adapted many times before. I feel that some of this creativity and originality has been lost with this Muppet movie and its predecessor. There are certainly fantastic moments in these films, but the general structure and plot of them is just lacking to me. The dreamers need to dream a little bigger.

I hope that the next Muppet film will branch out more from the past Muppet movies and become more of its own thing. However, I don't want the stories in the previous films to be forgotten. There is no need for a new timeline or any kind of reboot. All that is necessary is for The Muppets to move forward and continue the dream that was started long ago. As it stands, I've still never found a theatrical Muppet movie that I haven't enjoyed, but the magic that enchanted me in the previous Muppet movies is starting to fade away.