Muppets Most Wanted (2014) highlights a Kermit look-a-like that infiltrates the Muppets on their European tour while Kermit wallows in a Siberian gulag. If it sounds silly, it is, and that’s the way it should be. The film takes together everything that you want in a Muppet movie and then adds Tina Fey, Ty Burrell and Ricky Gervais. Naturally, this just makes things better. While the emotional arc is not as prevalent as in The Muppets (2011), the film is still a delight to watch with jokes that suit every age and characters we all know and love.
The film is full of guest appearances, wacky gags and memorable songs (sometimes too memorable). It is a bit too long though, stretching a good twenty minutes longer than it needs, and it also seems to be more a collection of gags and sequences strung together from country to country rather than an arcing plot. The villain Constantine and the Interpol agent played by Ty Burrell may be too interesting and fun for their own good, stealing the show. The plot weighs down without their screen presence during intervals of the story. As opposed to the previous film as well, nostalgia for the past and towards a simpler time is lacking and the story suffers for it, laughter compensating for heartstring pulling. The thing about the Muppets though, is that sometimes just being in their presence and laughing at their jokes does not make a lack of strong as much of a problem as with other films. The fact that they are the Muppets does compensate for a wish-wash story in a way because it still is fun.
While the story nor the heart is as strong as in the previous revival film, there is more than enough Muppet-mania to keep the viewer distracted and keep the fun going.
The true bright spot of the film is Constantine, a crooked take on Kermit the Frog. We are all aware of our favorite it-ain’t-easy-being-green-amphibian, and it is fun to see a criminal mastermind attempt to embody the same traits throughout the film. This is best with his interactions with Miss Piggy, including his song to her that contains a strangely creepy sex vibe.
His attempts to locate the crown jewels of England do not make that much sense when you think about it, but for a Muppet movie they suffice. His number two, Ricky Gervais, also handles himself extremely well as the Lemur, a ridiculous name for a ridiculous buffoon.
Some of the issues of the film result from having no real human character to empathize with. In other Muppet films such as The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) with Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge and Muppet Treasure Island (1996) with Tim Curry as Long John Silver, the human characters balance out the crazy Muppet antics (for reference, also think back on Orlando Bloom’s role in the Pirates of the Carribean (2003-2007) films as emotional attachment rather than the bizarre Jack Sparrow). It is hard for an audience to feel an emotional connection with something that it essentially a parody and with Constantine and Kermit given co-protagonist storylines, there is no human figure to latch onto.
Also somewhat bothersome is that the role of Miss Piggy during the last two films has been underutilized. She has always been the most vocal, most charismatic and iconic of Muppets, but she is reduced here to the “female” role- not sure of what is going on around her, doubting herself and needing to be rescued until the end where she finally takes control and pummels Constantine. As a hard-charging, take-what-you-can pig, the character should be more fully developed and instrumental to the plot.
The character of Walter, so integral to the previous film, is given practically nothing in this story, surprising since with his previous storyline in The Muppets, he seems to be the logical choice of protagonist for this story. Without him having a real role, there is a slight disconnect between this film and its predecessor. While the story is fine without this connection, a stronger follow-through for Walter’s character would add a deepening emotional level to the story.
Perhaps after restoring the Muppets to glory in the previous film, Muppets Most Wanted becomes an investigation into how to keep the Muppets together and for them to understand their importance to each other. Perhaps Constantine works to pit the Muppets against each other with various schemes, Gonzo against Rizzo, Miss Piggy against Fozzie, Dr. Teeth against Animal. It would then be up to Walter to bring the together again and expose Constantine as an imposter. Kermit’s role in the film is fine as is, with him wondering about his importance to the Muppet troop, stuck in a gulag and then finding his importance once again. They would all then grow closer together as a family through dealing with each of these plots.
Muppets Most Wanted succeeds as a film that’s fun, first and foremost. All other issues aside, fun is the priority and fun is what we get.