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Muppets Most Wanted
Disney // PG // March 21, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
Regardless of whether or not you're a Muppets fan, the decision to bring it to the silver screen back in 2011 was a questionable one. Personally, I have never been very much into the Muppets series, but it surely has an audience of all ages that enjoy what these characters have to offer. Well, The Muppets ended up being a pleasant surprise. It works for what it's going for, especially with its fairly strong cast. Once a sequel was green lit, I was hoping that it would at least keep me as entertained as the first film did. Unfortunately, it did exactly the opposite. Muppets Most Wanted is one of those films that will have you consistently checking your watch and sighing. While there are a couple redeeming values here, they're incredibly few and far apart. In fact, it doesn't really feel very much like you're watching the Muppets to begin with.
Wrapping up the adventure in The Muppets, the group is at it again. They're convinced that they have obtained their popularity back when they are approached by Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who suggests that they go on a grand world tour. He assumes the role of their manager, but clearly has alternative motives. Meanwhile, Constantine (Matt Vogel) escaped from a prison located in Siberia, Russia. Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmire) and the gang get caught up in a jewel-heist that the antagonists will do anything to succeed in.
Most sequels are only made in order to cash in on the success of the first one, and the marketing campaign attempts to make it sound as good as possible. Muppets Most Wanted wears this sequel like a badge of honor through the first scene, as they attempt to discover what they should do for their sequel now that the cameras have stayed around. This is actually one of the very few cute ideas that truly works quite well. However, it's pretty much downhill from there. Walter (Peter Linz) was a pleasant surprise in the first film, but he's been put aside here. In fact, he spends most of his time simply standing amongst his friends and doing nothing. This feature isn't really about the Muppets at all. Kermit the Frog has the most screen time out of the bunch, but a lot of the running time is dedicated to Constantine and his evil plans. This has simply eliminated a lot of the entertainment and leaves us with something that we don't care much about.
Writers James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller are responsible to provide audiences with laughs through the shenanigans and dialogue coming from the Muppets. Unfortunately, there aren't many laughs here from these famous characters. Since they aren't given very much to do, this script hits all of the wrong notes. The only couple of times that I found myself chuckling was due to a human. Nadya (Tina Fey) has a few decent lines, and it's a shame that more of it isn't carried across to the remainder of the characters. Not only are the Muppets known for their entertaining factor and humor, but they also sing. There are definitely songs here, but none of them are particularly memorable. Once the credits begin rolling, they'll be forgotten. There isn't anything keeping these in your mind, but they fit in the context of the scenes. If you're expecting to find yourself humming as you leave the cinemas, you'll find yourself terribly disappointed.
Even if you're an adult who has greatly enjoyed the Muppets and their crazy shenanigans at some point in time, Muppets Most Wanted is most certainly geared towards young children. Other than a couple jokes, there isn't very much for us to enjoy. The film is only a little bit under two hours, but it feels much longer, as the plot continues to flash back and forth between different perspectives. The pacing drags and doesn't know how to pick itself back up. The more that it moves, the more dull that it becomes. I never felt the need to root for any of the protagonists or care about anything the antagonists were going to pursue. We're never given much of a reason to care, other than the filmmakers reassuring us every now and then that, "Hey, you are watching the Muppets!"
Other than a full cast of voice actors for the main protagonists, Muppets Most Wanted puts a huge spotlight on its list of human actors. Aside from the characters that are meant to move the plot forward, there are a lot of cameos here in order to get some laughs. Ricky Gervais isn't able to truly get into his groove in the role of Dominic Badguy. He's a very funny man in real life, but you wouldn't necessarily know that from watching him here. Ty Burrell is criminally under-utilized as Jean Pierre Napoleon. He continues to chase our antagonists from place to place in order to capture them and put an end to their thieving days. He could have and should have been more incorporated into the story. Tina Fey is truly the best thing about the entire film as Nadya with her ridiculous Russian accent and all. She delivers the only chuckles present and makes the character fun to watch. The long list of cameos include Tony Bennett, Sean Combs, Lady Gaga, Zach Galifianakis, Josh Groban, Tom Hiddleston, and the list goes on. However, they aren't enough to put a broken film back together.
There is a visual style going on that shouldn't exist in any of these features. There is a clear use of CGI through some of the movements of the Muppets. The entire point of this series is to use practical effects and have almost everything happen in front of the camera. These scenes stick out like a sore thumb amongst an otherwise decent-looking picture. The remainder of Muppets Most Wanted looks fairly good, as it moves from one location to the next. However, it should have matched a visual tone closer to the first one, which was successful in portraying this world where humans and Muppets meet.
When even the children at the press screenings aren't laughing in a Muppets film, then you know that there is a problem. The major culprit here is the screenplay, written by Nicholas Stoller and writer/director James Bobin. Not only is it not funny, but the Muppets aren't put front and center. Everything that the first motion picture built up has been ignored, as the filmmakers take this to a place that it just shouldn't have gone. It's clear that they have tried to fix the problems by injecting a large number of cameos, but they don't distract from the issues. The pacing drags, making for a dull motion picture that doesn't do enough to make this worth seeing for both kids and adults. Muppets Most Wanted has a severe lack of magic, making for a lifeless and disappointing experience. Skip it.
As a side note, Disney has incorporated an animated short that takes place in the world of Monsters University before Muppets Most Wanted begins. It's actually much better than the motion picture that starts shortly after. This is a funny and entertaining short that works incredibly well. My only gripe is here is that it wasn't a little bit longer! This is a strong short that works incredibly well.