You can’t judge a book by its cover but I’m positive that you can judge a musical comedy by its opening number. Muppets Most Wanted (Most Wanted) is a direct contrast to the infectiously brilliant “Life’s a Happy Song”; instead we open with a subpar Hollywood ribbing called “We’re Doing a Sequel” that spits in the face of the audience that lauded their return.
Picking up immediately after The Muppets, the most dangerous frog in the world Constantine (a Kermit look-a-like with a Cindy Crawford mole) and his number two man Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) have Kermit thrown in a Siberian gulag in order to use an impending ‘Muppet World Tour’ to disguise a series of capers across Europe.
With less fulfilling musical numbers from Oscar winner Bret McKenzie and a script that’s like wading through concrete for the first hour; Most Wanted feels like going from Aliens to Alien 3. Writers James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller seem to be content with labouring along with indecisive Kermit, one who now shifts his neurosis to maintaining their revived to success and keeping the team together. While the focal point of The Muppets, Walter, seems to be relegated to the chorus for a majority of the story instead of evolving as Kermit’s protégé. It’s essentially a story without a central protagonist to anchor the Muppet mayhem, and feels like a series of skits instead of cohesive story. There’s also a cynical cloud hovering over proceedings. In The Muppets you have nigh forgotten the beloved brand getting it’s dated variety show back together for one last hurrah. It was a pursuit of a joyous time gone by where they were loveably ‘shonky’ and drew in their celebrity counterparts to partake in a universally ‘so bad its good’ show. It seems that Bobin and Stoller have reeled against The Muppets semi-success and deny them moving to a new audience without kicking them back to despair first.
It’s not all bad though. Gervais famously stated in his titanic podcast ‘The Ricky Gervais Show’ that the only thing better than A Christmas Carol is a Muppet Christmas Carol. Clearly a huge fan, he shines as Badguy (pronounced BadGee – it’s French you see) desperate to step out of the shadow of Constantine. Ty Burrell gets an opportunity to essentially bust out an audition tape for any future Pink Panther films, while Tina Fey plays the least intimidating Siberian Gulag warden of all time.
It’s truly hard to describe the strange joy of watching Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta as prisoners in the Gulag especially when their Gulag variety show has them in a choir that are huge fans of Boyz II Men. It’s always fun riding the Muppets cameo carousel to see who adores the brand; Celine Dion, Christophe Waltz, James McAvoy, Usher, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga all join the fun.
Muppets Most Wanted is essentially the ‘B-Side’ to The Muppets. It almost ensures that the Muppets are left to gather dust on a shelf awaiting the desperation of a true fan filmmaker to resurrect them once again.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: James Bobin
Written by: James Bobin & Nicholas Stoller based on Jim Henson’s characters
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel