The Muppets revitalized the franchise in 2011. It was a smart, charming, and hilariously fun film that captured audiences with its heartfelt story about a man who wanted to be a Muppet and a Muppet who wanted to be a man. Something has been apparently lost in the three years since, because Muppets Most Wanted is a shell of its former glory.
Most Wanted takes place immediately following the first film with the Muppets embarking on a grand world tour of their show. They hire tour manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) to handle all the logistics, but as it turns out Mr. Badguy really is a bad guy. He’s actually “Number Two,” the criminal sidekick to the World’s Number One Criminal, Constantine, who also happens to look exactly like Kermit the Frog only with a mole on his upper lip. Together they devise a plot to steal the Crown Jewels and frame Kermit and the rest of the Muppets for the theft.
While The Muppets brought us back to the familiar world we all grew up loving so much, Muppets Most Wanted does its best to once again distance us from it. It’s a boring, halfhearted attempt of a sequel even though the film does its best at making jokes at its own expense.
The awkward and loveable Walter was the driving force of the first film, but in Muppets Most Wanted he’s been reduced to practically nothing. The focus this time around is primarily on Kermit as he and Constantine switch places; he ends up in a Russian Gulag while Constantine tries to blend in as the leader of the Muppets, with Number Two’s help of course.
Walter was a character audiences could relate to. We’ve all had those moments where we didn’t fit in, but The Muppet Show was the one place everyone felt welcomed. Walter was one that represented that theme, which has now been pushed into the background only to appear once in a while, just like the character.
The film does feature the same staple elements of its predecessor, namely a number of song and dance routines and a ton of celebrity cameos. While the songs aren’t as catchy as The Muppets they follow along the same line of enjoyment and humor. Tina Fey, Ty Burrell and Ricky Gervais all star in the film, but many more celebrities make brief appearances, whether it’s Ray Liotta as a singing prisoner or Usher as an actual usher. It’s fun to watch and you never know who’s going to appear next or in what capacity.
The problem is that it’s the same material we’ve seen before. Most Wanted doesn’t attempt to do anything new or different besides the story, which itself is nothing special, and simply recycles the same format of the first film.
The charm, wit, and humor of The Muppets are all but absent from Muppets Most Wanted. The songs aren’t as memorable, and it simply doesn’t capture that warm feeling Jim Henson created with the franchise. It doesn’t have the love and care that went into the making of the first film. It’s just an empty sequel.