After the success of the 2011 reboot "The Muppets," which delighted critics and grossed more than $165 million worldwide, a sequel was inevitable. Opening March 21, "Muppets Most Wanted" picks up right where the Muppet gang left off and sends them on a grand tour of Europe.
According to a number of early reviews, however, "Most Wanted" pales in comparison to its predecessor.
Variety's Justin Chang calls the film "a hokey transcontinental caper that conspicuously lacks the winning blend of irreverence and sincerity that made 2011's 'The Muppets' such a delight." He adds, "On the basis of a simple side-by-side comparison of the two films, the missing ingredient is clearly Jason Segel, the improbable creative force whose writing, acting and singing talents were so pivotal in reviving the franchise the first time around."
Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter says "Most Wanted" is "an oddly off-key follow-up," adding that "the repetitive storyline about successive heists during a Muppets European tour grows tiresome and the fun is intermittent."
Even the "formidable" talents of Ricky Gervais, playing a scheming tour manager, and Tina Fey, playing a Siberian prison guard, "become a bit wearisome here in one-note parts that force them to be loudly over-the-top nearly all the time."
Robbie Collin of the Telegraph writes, "Muppet film number eight is a resounding disappointment: it's uneven and often grating, with only a few moments of authentic delight, and almost none of the sticky-sweet, toast-and-honey crunch of its vastly enjoyable 2011 forerunner."
Gervais, he says, is "all arch muttering and shifty grins" and "jars catastrophically with the film's otherwise hopeful, frolicky spirit." As for the music: "Bret McKenzie, who wrote the soundtrack, comes up with nothing here to match 'Life's a Happy Song,' or 'Man or Muppet,' and a Miss Piggy-Celine Dion duet achieves exactly four per cent of that double-act's comic potential."
Brent Simon of Screen Daily finds "Most Wanted" to be "a harmless if largely uninspired musical comedy offering" and a "lesser effort than its predecessor in every way." He adds, "The story this time feels small and miscalculated … and minus the mooring presence of [the previous film's] Jason Segel and Amy Adams, there isn't an engaging enough connection between the Muppets and the human actors."
Not every review has been so critical. IGN's Eric Goldman writes, "While perhaps not hitting all the beats the last movie did, 'Muppets Most Wanted' is another big success." He adds, "The human stars are clearly having a blast (and how could they not?), and with great jokes and incredibly catchy songs, Kermit and the gang again show why they are such enduringly lovable characters."
And Alonso Duralde of the Wrap says, "Even if the 21st century Muppet features don't quite reach the pinnacle established while Jim Henson was alive, 'Muppets Most Wanted' is often as good as or even better than 2011's 'The Muppets.'"
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