(On Cable TV, January 2015) The return of the Muppets in their 2011 film, after a lengthy eclipse, was a perfectly calibrated comeback, lending considerable promise to any sequel. With Muppets Most Wanted… well, we’re back to a more ordinary level of quality. Picking up where The Muppets ended, this sequel cheerfully announced its colors with the “An Unnecessary Muppets Sequel” music number, but then does on to far more ordinary territory with the rest of its crime/comedy framework. Fortunately, even a more average Muppets film is still a good time at the movies, and this sequel coats on the good-will of the previous film with an astonishing number of celebrity cameos. Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burr do well in the human roles. The caper plot has a nice international flavour, and the film seems willing to cram twice as many jokes as there are space for them, hoping that at least some of them will stick. The biggest asset of The Muppets is its oft-corny charm, and for all of its more ordinary impact, Muppets Most Wanted at least has much of that charm. It’s a decent follow-up, although it can’t touch the 2011 film for sheer success.
(On Cable TV, December 2012) Looking at the quasi-complete success of The Muppets, it’s hard to fully recognize the challenges that its writers and producers were facing in reviving the Muppets for the twenty-first century’s big screen: Would fond memories of the Muppets translate well in this ironic age? Would it be possible to ground the Muppets into a contemporary reality? What to do with the iconic characters? The first surprise of The Muppets is that it works. The second surprise is that it works really well, carefully balancing itself between opposing objectives. It’s self-aware without being ironic, sentimental without being sappy and self-deprecating without being sardonic. Writer/star Jason Segel deserves a lot of credit for spearheading this revival: his affection for the Muppets is obvious, and he lets them grab most of the film’s glory. The winks to the modern audience are frequent without being annoying, and the way The Muppets plays with familiar tropes is amusing without being too annoying. Groaners accompany wit and the familiar is combined with the new. It’s a great film for the entire family, and it should herald more Muppets in the near future.