Despite bringing back the director and writer of The Muppets, which reimagined Jim Henson’s creations as a modern film franchise, whatever charm existed in that 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. While that wasn’t enough to make that film much more than quaint and lightly enjoyable, it was enough to prop it up. It was something, after all, and it’s definitely more than Muppets Most Wanted has going for it. What’s strange and 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 director James Bobin is fully aware of the inherent problems with his movie, yet thinks self-awareness is a good enough reason to then ignore these 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 non-stop celebrity cameos (though the idea of “celebrity” is stretched here a good bit), corny jokes, and musical numbers. There’s nothing new or even imaginative going on here, meaning the film’s most likely strictly for the initiated. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on this little movie. It is, after all, pleasant enough and watchable and never purports to be anything else. And — 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 — as much as a puppet can be uninspired. This is a movie that appears to smoothly reference both the Marx Brothers and Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy, yet remains monumentally dull.
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