I grew up watching The Muppet movies. They often seemed a little dated and a little isolating because of just how darn American they were, but that was all part of the charm. I have fond memories of The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan. I recall being mesmerised and impressed by the glamorous musical sequences and the professionalism of the choreography; on par with any Bob Fosse arrangement. Despite being performed by a pig, a frog and a piano-playing dog, the musical numbers seemed, to the eight year old me, to be right out of a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. Their greatest film is undoubtedly The Muppet Christmas Carol which I re-visit every Christmas, remaining defiant that it is one of the greatest cinematic Charles Dickens adaptation to date. After a really pleasing and witty reboot in 2011, Kermit and company are back in cinemas this Easter with their sequel to The Muppets which is, as the characters themselves point out in the opening number, technically their seventh follow up. What I adore most about The Muppets is how self-aware they are. Miss Piggy is more of a celebrity personalities than a puppet. We are taught to believe in the characters as much as the animated fabric. Their latest film, Muppets Most Wanted is no different – here, the film opens with the end.
As the finale of the previous instalment concludes, the Muppets resume their ordinary roles as Muppets and not actors. The meta-experience of The Muppets, which of course started with the sorely missed Jim Henson, makes them truly unique. That said, how much does it then matter that Muppets Most Wanted is rather limp? I watched Muppets Most Wanted in a half-filled cinema surrounded by mainly children, between the ages of five to nine. I can’t decide whether the film had misjudged its audience or if the children’s parents had misjudged the film. There were very few laughs from the audience, with the exception of my friend and I who chortled several times, giggled once but never truly laughed.Muppets Most Wanted certainly isn’t going to keep children entertained, at least not for its full 107 minutes. This film definitely needed to be about fifteen minutes shorter and about eight jokes funnier. That said, I strongly believe that film geeks will get a heck of a lot more out of it than most. My favourite moments included a rehearsal of ‘I Hope I Get It’ from A Chorus Line – performed by Serbian prisoners, and a reference to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, featuring Swedish Chef.
When Kermit is mistaken for Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog, he finds himself stuck in a Russian prison whilst the evil amphibian mastermind attempts to use the rest of The Muppets and their world tour in order to rob the crown jewels, assisted by his second in command, “Dominic Badguy”. Dominic is played by Ricky Gervais who maintains his usual screen persona. Where Tina Fey attempts a rather persuasive Russian accent, Gervais seems content in remaining as himself. To be honest, this fits with the overall feel of the film. From start to finish, Gervais looks blissfully happy to be working with The Muppets which doesn’t entirely fit with his character but, nevertheless, works quite well. There is enough of a plot, and more than enough cameos, but just too few laughs and fifteen minutes too many. Muppets Most Wanted isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t great. It’s too complex for children and too simple for adults, making it a poorly balanced and inconsistent movie. To me, it doesn’t really matter that Muppets Most Wanted was slightly dull because it maintained the charm we associate with The Muppets. Plus, it’s quite nice to have an excuse to reminisce on this institution of puppetry and entertainment. I hope The Muppets keep making movies because, whether or not their films are flawed, it’s just nice to have them around again.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.