Monday, April 7, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted Review

Muppets Most Wanted Review
Remember when "The Muppets" came out in 2011? Remember how special and grand the whole thing felt? I was very much surprised and impressed by what Jason Segel and Nicholas Soller did with that script. Not only did they tell a story in the vein of The Muppets, and filled with humor and goofiness, it also told a very worthwhile fable. Even though The Muppets were puppets, the story told in 2011 was very human and very personable. I think that is why I identified with it so quickly, that is why it puts a tear-ridden smile on my face every time I pop in the blu-ray. Even though the film felt like a Muppet movie, it was edgier, willing to try new things with the characters, and I really dug that too.

Usually, when The Muppets go on a high-concept adventure, it heads south much too quickly. Who remembers "Muppets In Space?" Or "Muppet Treasure Island?" Yikes, that's all I can say about those. Even though Jason Segel did not return for "Muppets Most Wanted," I was still intrigued by the inclusion of Nicholas Soller. At least we were getting half the team back for this one. Even though "Muppets Most Wanted" saw our beloved characters on an international crime caper, I thought there might be some heart and soul in this movie still so I was ready with an open heart and mind. 

Sadly, I sit here, writing about "Muppets Most Wanted" underwhelmed. Let me stress underwhelmed, because "Muppets Most Wanted" is not a terrible movie. If you are a Muppets fan, this will not tarnish their image, not by a long shot. It's just that "Muppets Most Wanted" is a uneven film. Coming off the hot rails of "The Muppets" in 2011, that is a little disheartening. "The Muppets" was so strong, and I was hoping for some of that positive energy to be transferred into this sequel, and it kind of does and it kind of does not. I think "Muppets Most Wanted" is leagues better than either "Muppets In Space" or "Muppet Treasure Island." It just never quite picks up in the way I hope it would.

"Muppets Most Wanted" takes place seconds, literally seconds, after the first film ended. We see that our dear Muppets have no idea what to do next. Soon a manager by the name Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) suggests that The Muppets go on a world tour, which they gladly accept. We learn however, that Badguy is actually using the world tour as a front with his boss Constantine, a Kermit The Frog lookalike who assumes Kermit's identity, while also making the world believe that Kermit is Constantine. Now that Constantine has infiltrated The Muppets, he and Badguy rob museums during the world tour, all the while Kermit is locked up in a prison with a Kermit obsessed warden (Tina Fey).

Despite the fun premise, "Muppets Most Wanted" plays it safe almost entirely throughout. Remeber how "The Muppets" had fun with their jokes, and Segel and Soller created humor unlike any we had seen in a previous Muppet movie? Well, Soller played it incredibly safe this time. Every single time, the movie goes for the easy joke (Usher Raymond playing a wedding Usher...giggle,giggle. An INTERPOL agent having a badge-off with a CIA agent...giggle, giggle.) I just thought that "The Muppets" brought the characters so far, and I was hoping for an advancement in humor once again, but I just did not get that. It also does not help that the story is horrifically cliched and you can guess how it all will end before the film gets moving too fast. There are many more cameos in this sequel than in the 2011 movie, but they don't serve the story like they did in the 2011 movie. The cameos are handled like a celebrity walk-off rather than used as something clever or humorous. Plus, the cameos are so vast that they end up becoming a distraction, which was unfortunate.

Okay, okay...its not all bad. The musical numbers are great! I perked up every single time a new song came on. Just as the musical numbers worked well in the 2011 movie, they work just as well here. It also helps that both Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais are at the top of their game here, and so is Ty Burrell. Do you like Mr. Burrell from TV's "Modern Family?" Well, he's well utilized here, I just wish he was given a better sub-plot. There are moments of big humor here that really work. Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo has back-up dancers at the prison? Priceless. The Muppets humming "Moves Like Jagger," better than it sounds. There are also many more funny moments sprinkled here and there across the journey of this film.

What "Muppets Most Wanted" partially boils down to is an odyssey of Kermit. See, there are two stories in "Muppets Most Wanted." First, there is the caper story with Constantine robbing museums. Second, there is Kermit coming to the realization that he is the true leader of The Muppets, not only that but he is the rock of the group. If he isn't apart of the group, the group will dissolve. Had "Muppets Most Wanted" left out the Constantine storyline and focused more on The Muppets on a world tour, and Kermit discovering that he is the heart of the group, the film would have been much stronger overall. If anything, "Muppets Most Wanted," is a little bit of a missed opportunity.

Let me just say that the stuff in "Muppets Most Wanted" works, really works. If you have children, take them to see this, I am sure they will absolutely love it. If you are even the slightest fan of anything Muppets, check this out. There is so much bright material here that only a heartless churl could put this on a Don't Watch list. There is so much charm and wit in this sequel, and it is all worth a look. It may not measure to the 2011 film, but it is still fun.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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