I was ready to pack it up and walk away from the Muppets three years ago, but The Muppets wound up being a true surprise for me and I found myself not only enjoying that movie, but hopeful for the franchise’s future again. Combine that with my having a daughter I’ve raised to enjoy the Muppets requesting to see it, I yet again braved the crowds to see this movie today.
While The Muppets was steeped in nostalgia, I like that this one tried to move into the future rather than be a love letter to its past. That’s not the say it doesn’t borrow greatly from its spiritual precursor The Great Muppet Caper, but this doesn’t try to outright be a remake of that movie unlike The Muppets did with The Muppet Movie.
I’m going to pull out my favorite phrase right off the bat: This was one good rewrite away from being a really good movie. As it was…it was okay with glimmers of “good.” While it’s predecessor was a return to making the story about characters this one takes a step back to being very plot-driven. That’s not to say there weren’t some nice character bits, but they were buried by the plot trying to be clever.
In fact, the movie should have rested entirely on the character story lines. What happens when Kermit’s shepherding presence leaves the Muppets and is replaced by an anarchist? Can Kermit land in an entirely new situation and build something from the ground up that is just as good as the Muppets? Those two questions are addressed, but in their hurry to be clever, the answers cease to be poignant.
Too much attention is given to the human characters in this one without a good thematic connection to the Muppets storyline. In The Muppet Movie, Kermit and Doc Hopper’s life goals parallel each other and result in the emotionally charged final showdown. In The Muppets, Jason Segel and Walter’s stories parallel each other’s and give commentary and perspective on each side. In this one, the departure of the real Kermit should have given rise to another Muppet trying rally to keep the Muppets together. Walter makes an effort, but it isn’t the true “number two” role that Ricky Gervais’ character could have truly been a parallel for. That would have just been one way to handle it. Unfortunately, Ricky Gervais’ character becomes rather one-dimensional and a complete misuse of Gervais’ talents.
Surprisingly, the Sam the Eagle and Ty Burrell subplot was exceptional. I would love to have seen other characters get some similar treatment. There are a lot of cameos in this movie from Hollywood stars, but it felt like several popular Muppets had cameos at best. Gonzo does practically nothing in this movie. Rizzo even states he’s taken a backseat in this one and the last one (and the following Muppet cameo was a nice tribute to the recently departed Jerry Nelson). This is the downfall of having an ensemble cast as huge as the Muppets. Every character is someone’s favorite and not every movie can give each character the attention they deserve. It does seem the balance has been better in other movies though.
Overall, I’ll give the story three walruses. That might be a half more than I should give it, but there’s enough in this that it’s still enjoyable. And it’s still the Muppets.
I still enjoy watching the first two movies and marveling at how they got puppets to ride bikes, drive cars and just interact with the world. This movie doesn’t exude that feeling though. It feels like this is a mostly set-based movie. It also feels like there is a lot…I mean, A LOT of green screen. And not especially well done green screen either.
The acting didn’t stand out as the best. As I mentioned before, Gervais seemed wasted. Burrell was a delight, but besides Jemaine Clement and his Gulag team, no one else really stood out to me. Tina Fey also seemed miscast. Especially considering she was the “Kermit the Frog” of 30 Rock. She could have been given a better role more suited to her talents.
The big thing worth mentioning here is the music. After watching The Muppets, I did track down the Flight of the Conchords DVDs and Bret McKenzie is the perfect guy to write these songs. Is there another “Man or Muppet” in this batch? I don’t know, but “Something So Right” is a contender. I have never been a fan of any of Piggy’s songs from previous Muppet productions, but in Muppets Most Wanted, her song is the big stand out song for me. The rest of them are fun, Muppety songs. It anything, it’s disappointing that the main Muppet cast doesn’t get enough to sing. Constantine gets two songs (one of which is very good) and Tina Fey and the prisoners gets one, too.
I’ll give the presentation a matching three walruses. No rewatchable walrus, though I’m sure I’ll see it again and again anyway.
Total: SIX WALRUSES
An okay addition to the Muppet franchise but it could have been better. For context, I rank the theatrical Muppet movies like this:
- The Muppet Movie
- The Muppets
- The Great Muppet Caper
- The Muppet Christmas Carol
- Muppets Most Wanted
- Muppets From Space
- Muppets Take Manhattan
- Muppet Treasure Island