Muppets Most Wanted seems to be under the "bigger is better" lane of thinking. Compared to 2011's smashing The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted has more songs, more celebrity cameos, and more elaborate set pieces (though remarkably, it boasts a shorter run time). Despite this, Muppets Most Wanted is not nearly as hilarious, brilliant, or enjoyable as its predecessor. Still, while it's nothing if not inconsistent, most should be satisfied with this 2014 follow-up, even if it's lacking the effortless charm of the reboot.
Constantine, the world's most wanted villain has a deceptive plot to steal the royal jewels (or something of the sort). Incidentally, he looks exactly like Kermit the Frog, with the only visible difference being a mole on his right cheek. He frames Kermit for his crimes, and convinces the Muppet gang that HE is the actual Kermit.
Most of the crew from the first film returns, including director James Bobin, writer Nicholas Stoller, and much of the Muppet cast (leads from the previous film, Jason Segel and Amy Adams, do not appear). And yet, Muppets Most Wanted is no where near the comic brilliance of the 2011 reboot. It's still perfectly watchable (and recommendable) entertainment, but it fails to meet (or even come especially close to meeting) the standard set by its predecessor.
With that being said, Muppets Most Wanted is actually closer in feel and tone to Henson's original films than the 2011 reboot. With this in mind, Muppets Most Wanted actually might appeal more to fans of the original movies. Personally, Henson's films have been a bit of a hit-or-miss commodity for me, and I found the 2011 reboot to be much more accessible and entertaining. Nevertheless, Muppets Most Wanted finds something of a balance between the two, which might create an appealing middle ground to those who adored the 2011 reboot, and those that found it blasphemous.
The script isn't consistently funny, and this could be a major problem. However, in this case, the gags come at a reasonably rapid pace, so if a gag makes you groan, you won't have much time to consider that, because you'll be smiling a few seconds later. Alas, this reveals another issue with Muppets Most Wanted, and that is that it's rarely laugh-out-loud funny. You'll probably smile your way throughout most of the picture (and there's a generous array of chuckles dispersed throughout as well), but genuine laughs are rare. As a result, you may find the film to be much worse in retrospect.
As far as The Muppets themselves go, there is inevitably not enough screentime to give ample attention to all of them. Kermit, Constantine, Miss Piggy, Walter, and Fozzy get the most screentime (Animal and Scooter get a fair bit as well). The other Muppets, while mostly not forgotten (in fact, a lovely cameo references the Muppets that actually WERE forgotten in the last film), have much smaller bits. Often getting only a single memorable scene (or even line) to themselves.
But also problematic in this field is the roles of Kermit, Walter, and Scooter. Kermit is typically the level-headed member of the gang, but he's in a Russian prison for most of the film. So logically, this should leave Scooter as the one to take his place in this role, balancing the sanity with the insanity. Alas, this becomes sort of a shared role between Scooter and Walter, which makes the characters seem both redundant and unnecessary. Furthermore, this forces Scooter to do things that seem outside of his character in order to accommodate Walter. It's a bit frustrating, and certainly sloppy, but is there really any better alternative?
As I mentioned, there are absolutely more songs in this film. "We're Doing a Sequel" has some great zingers, and the tune is guaranteed to be a nostalgic one in (give or take) 20 years. But it's also a bit of a curiosity, has it decidedly names the movie during the song; but not as Muppets Most Wanted. Rather, it dubs itself "Muppets...Again." This was actually the original title, but it was later changed to the much less charming (but considerably less awkward), Muppets Most Wanted. This problem recurs in the closing number.
"I'm Number One" is a surprisingly funny number between Constantine and his partner, Dominic, where Constantine elaborates on how he is the most wanted criminal in the world, while Dominic, is only number two. "The Big House," detailing the Russian Prison is immediately forgettable, and relatively uninteresting. "I'll Get You What You Want" falls under the same criteria. The "Interrogation Song" is perhaps the highlight. It's not as flashy as some of the other numbers, but I daresay I chuckled the most during this song. "Something So Right," (which is this film's equivalent of "Man or Muppet") is notable for its camp value, but little else. Lastly, the closing number, "Together Again," (from The Muppets Take Manhattan) is sheer nostalgic bliss, even if the original number is superior. There's also a Spanish arrangement of the Muppet Show theme that's an amusing addition.
The performances by the Muppets are what you'd expect. Voices that mostly sound the same as the originals (though some differences are more apparent than others), that are perfectly zany, and capable of delivering punch lines. The human cast is seemingly enormous (due to a massive amount of cameos that I'll let you discover on your own), but there are really just three primary players. One is Ricky Gervais as Dominic Badguy (who is, as you can see, one of the film's antagonists). His performance is serviceable, but he doesn't do nearly enough scenery-chewing. Tina Fey as Nadya- a Russian GULAG officer- never feels right in this role. I personally think that this has more to do with the script than her character, but either way, it reflects badly on the performance. Lastly, there's Ty Burrell, portraying a French Interpol inspector, who is the highlight of the humans (and possibly, of the film). He completely gets the Muppet tone, and provides the right amount of camp and comic ability.
The score, composed by Christophe Beck, is notable for actually including a main theme; something the other Muppet films rarely accomplish. Still, the theme is not developed in the slightest, resulting in a repetitive sounding score. There's an instrumental arrangement of "Together Again" early on that really surprised me, though it felt much less inspired after I realized that it was only there to tie in the number at the end (as opposed to being a spontaneous scoring idea).
As a whole, Muppets Most Wanted is an odd kind of beast. While there are definitely gags that bomb, and inconsistencies that will certainly bother some, there are enough smiles and chuckles to satisfy most audience members. Kids will probably find themselves a little bored, and fans of Henson's films, or the reboot, will be mildly disappointed. But the entertainment value is absolutely there. Die-Hards may just have to squint a bit to see it.
Note: The film is preceded by a short film entitled Party Central, starring characters from 2013's Monsters University. It's got a few decent gags (particularly near the end), but it's nothing special. Younger fans of Pixar's prequel will enjoy it the most, while anyone older will find it passable. On the whole, it's more than a bit depressing that this is the only new Pixar film that audiences will see for over a year.