I was the only person in the theater on Tuesday morning when I went to go see Muppets Most Wanted. This was more a timing issue than anything else, but it made for interesting viewing.
It was also interesting since on Saturday night, I watched The Muppet Movie with Glen and Chrissy. It’s pointed out in Most Wanted’s opening number, “We’re Going To Do A Sequel,” that this is the 7th Muppet sequel since their 1979 cinema debut. And nothing has ever touched the original, with it’s bitter sweet moments, it’s hysterical meta comedy and of course Paul William’s beautiful songs.
2011’s The Muppets came pretty close. That movie was Jason Segel’s love letter to the franchise, and served as a new jumping off point. Brett McKenzie’s songs in that movie served the narrative and added some modern edge to the classic high pitched strains of the gang. There’s a reason why “Man Or Muppet” won an Oscar, it hit all the right beats of comedy and heart. There’s not really anything in Muppets Most Wanted that hits that high. The movie is funny. But most of the comedy belongs to the celebrity cameos and larger roles, (Tina Fey and Ty Burrell in particular own their parts as does the flawless Ricky Gervais), and not to the Muppets themselves. The story, which plays on a classic evil twin ploy isn’t really anything too special either and aside from Kermit, most of the gang falls by the wayside.
Seven movies on, it’s hard for anything to retain it’s luster, and since The Muppet Movie, The Muppets have become something bigger than they were. But for all of the quick laughs, and fun action of this movie, I missed the deeper heart and elements of silliness that The Muppets represent. I’ve mentioned before that generally I trust Disney with their acquired properties. They’ve done great things with Marvel, and in the past interesting things with The Muppets.
But they need to find a heart for this franchise if it’s going to keep working. I believe that they can. We’re going to go back there, someday.