Despite bringing back the director and writer of The Muppets (2011), which reimagined Jim Henson’s creations as a modern film franchise, whatever charm that existed in the 2011 film has vanished in its sequel, Muppets Most Wanted. The limited appeal of The Muppets rested on a loving nostalgia for its colorful, foam rubber cast. And while nostalgia wasn’t enough to make that film more than quaint and lightly enjoyable, it was enough to prop it up. Muppets Most Wanted falls short in comparison.
What’s strange, unfortunate and a bit ironic is that the film opens with a musical number pointing out the often-diminished returns of sequels and the formulaic nature of Muppet movies. So we know that director James Bobin is fully aware of the inherent problems with his movie. Self-awareness, however, isn’t enough to solve the issues. Really, what it boils down to is that you can only do so much with a Muppet movie, which probably explains the 12-year gap between Muppets From Space (1999) and The Muppets. There’s a plot of sorts, involving The Muppets, unbeknownst to them, getting ensnared in a series of art thefts around Europe, but this is simply an artifice for nonstop celebrity cameos (though the idea of “celebrity” is stretched here a good bit), corny jokes and musical numbers. There’s nothing new or imaginative going on here, meaning the film will likely only appeal to the strictly initiated.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh on this little movie. After all, it’s pleasant enough, watchable and never purports to be anything else. At the very least, the songs are miles better than the much-lauded ones in The Muppets. But there’s no spark here, and everyone seems to be going through the motions. This is a movie that smoothly references both the Marx Brothers and Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy (2003), yet remains monumentally dull. So while Muppets Most Wanted is certainly an unassuming, generally warm film, it’s not a particularly inspired one. Rated PG for some mild action.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.