I feel bad for The Muppets in the same way I feel bad for aging rock bands. They used to be cutting edge but now they’re content to be a nostalgia act making money by playing the hits. I don’t begrudge them the work and frankly I might be a little jealous of how much money they’re making doing the same old thing but I wish they doing new and exciting things rather than just jamming out on “Sympathy for the Devil” one more time. Muppets Most Wanted is a fun movie but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
The plot of Muppets Most Wanted centers around an international jewel thief frog who is identical to Kermit with the exception of a mole on his lip. Using his underling Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), Constantine switches place with Kermit, taking over running the Muppet world tour while Kermit rots away in a Siberian Gulag. The movie then breaks in to three threads with Gervais, Constantine, and the duped Muppets going on a world tour that corresponds to where robberies need to be made leading to a heist of the crown jewels while Kermit tries to escape his captors at the Gulag (led by Tina Fey) and a pair of mismatched cops (Sam Eagle and a Clouseau-esque Ty Burrell) try to solve the crime. It doesn’t break any new ground in any of the three threads but the live-action actors are giving it everything they have even when they seem a little over their heads in the musical numbers. Muppet purists might be a little upset that Walter is still front and center in this movie instead of some of the more established characters. Muppet purists might also find this film too similar to The Great Muppet Caper to really warrant a whole new film. Are Muppet purists a real thing? Is this a demographic that moves tickets? Wouldn’t they have given up when Jim Henson died, Frank Oz retired and Disney bought the company?
There are two lengthy sequences where you can see all of Constantine’s body and he moves around on his legs and Disney needs to promise they won’t try this with any other Muppets until the effect gets much better. Everyone knows these are puppets and is willing to accept the limitations that come with that. I don’t know if it was a marionette or a CGI effect or some combination of the two but it looks atrocious. There’s a classic look to the Muppets and it all looks fine introducing new for the sake of new (you cannot convince me a dance number was essential to the plot) is a dicey proposition even when it doesn’t look like you’ve hastily inserted a frog puppet via green screen.
I’d like to close by briefly scolding whoever had the idea to have Usher do a cameo as an usher. I groaned over the next two lines. You almost pissed away all the good will you generated by having Salma Hayek appear exclusively in a red spandex bodysuit. Almost.