The Muppets begin this film by singing a song about how they’re doing a sequel, and how sequels aren’t quite as good as the first movie. I could name a few sequels I believe are better than the first (Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda 2, etc), although let’s see if this is true in this case.
Set immediately after events of The Muppets, the gang prepare themselves to do a world tour, suggested and organised by Dominic Badguy (played by Ricky Gervais). What they don’t know is that Dominic Badguy is actually a bad guy! OH NO! REALLY? He is actually working for the world’s most dangerous frog named Constantine, who looks almost exactly like Kermit except for a mole in his face and a very thick accent and personality. Their plan is for Constantine to pose as Kermit, and to use the world tour to find pieces in each city to steal a treasure. Kermit is mistaken for Constantine and is sent to the Gulag in Berlin led by the top prison guard Nadya (played by Tina Fey). In hot pursuit of the museum thieves are Sam Eagle and Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (played by Ty Burrell). Celebrity cameos, fun songs, and muppet high jinks ensue.
I’m probably part of the minority (if there is one) who thinks that this sequel was more entertaining than the first one! They made Muppets Most Wanted with the knowledge that sequels aren’t usually as good as the first one, so there was no point in them trying to top the first one. And arguably the first one should be better. Honestly, though, I believe it deserves more credit than it points itself out to be. So why do I prefer this one over the first movie?
For starters, I enjoyed the musical numbers and comedy more. The songs felt catchier and funnier, and as a muppet musical, it felt like it was updated just right. The sequel song was probably the funniest song of the movie, and it really hyped me up for the music and comedy in this movie, which really payed off. I also enjoyed the casting more. Ricky Gervais as a criminal who works with Constantine, but is treated as second best, really gets a laugh, Tina Fey gives out a really funny performance, and Ty Burrell kinda reminds me of Inspector Clouseau and I love it when he ends up having a bit of a love-hate relationship with Sam Eagle as they work together. And Constantine makes for a fun character as well! The celebrity cameos are as good as the first movie. By the way, I got excited when the movie referenced A Chorus Line. You’ll see it about twice: during the opening number, and somewhere in the middle.
So that’s all well and good to prefer some of those elements over the first one. But I also preferred the story in this movie than I do in the previous, which is strange, because in hindsight the first one should be better in terms of its story. Why is this one more entertaining? Let’s compare the stories:
A significant difference is that the first film talks about what the muppets represented to their audience, and that they’ll never be forgotten. With strong themes of nostalgia, optimism, and the way we view our entertainment, it marked a strong return for the muppets. The whole caper theme and mistaken-identity storyline is used as the backdrop for Muppets Most Wanted, but the muppets are kept as the focus either way, and it maintains a balance between that storyline and the characters we love. Here, the muppets are already back together, and it’s more about what the muppets mean to each other as friends, as they’re like one whole family, although they also explore the fact that they’re an entertainment group. While The Muppets was about them being brought back together, Muppets Most Wanted is about WHY they stay together. They really explore how Kermit works as the leader of the group, and how he tries to maintain order within the group. He definitely cares about the success of the group, although he really tries his best to be patient and considerate, wondering if he’s making the right decisions. The rest of the muppets mostly have very eccentric personalities, and they get so caught-up in their own acts and their overall success, particularly Miss Piggy, which is why Kermit is the most fit to keep them in check. When Kermit is replaced by Constantine, we really see why Kermit is so important and responsible for their success. While both the first and second film had the characters we loved, I think this muppet movie went out of its way to really explore their group dynamic, and not just them as friends or individually. It’s a bit sad to see Kermit’s separated from the group, but we still get enough screen time with him, and have him question his worth as a leader and as a friend. We also get some Kermit and Miss Piggy drama, but then again every other muppet movie does that anyway.
I guess another reason I prefer this one is that, while the previous one was thematically stronger, its story was more focused on Walter and Jason Segel and Amy Adams’ characters. While I like those two actors, I wanted to see more of the muppets: the characters themselves weren’t as entertaining as the human characters in this one, and their love story was a little shoehorned in. I began to have flashbacks of Ted (ironically, that came out after The Muppets). I like Walter ok, and he was ok in this movie too. He wasn’t forced in, as it made sense what role he had in this movie. Because we spend more time with the muppets this time, this actually feels more like a muppet movie than its predecessor. Isn’t that odd?
Maybe this is overanalysing, but these are the reasons why I personally prefer Muppets Most Wanted over The Muppets. Either way, you’ll still be satisfied with this movie, especially if you’re a muppet fan. I guess the only real flaw is that if you’re not a muppet fan, you might not get a few jokes (you even get a few cameos of lesser known muppets), but then again, the in-jokes and references are quite downplayed, and it’s pretty much the same case with the first movie. As a sequel, the only thing your really need to know is that Walter is a fan of the muppets who became a recent addition to the cast, so that’s not much. Overall, the comedy is great, the music is great, the performances are great, and it’s just all around fun! I say go see it!