Muppets_Most_WantedVery early on in the latest Muppet movie, in the first of many musical numbers lacking in soul and humour, they turn their satirical peashooter in the direction of sequels and announce that this movie probably isn’t going to be as good as the first one. They’re not so specific as to define whether they mean the very first Muppet movie, or the one from a couple of years ago, but whatever the intent, there’s hardly a more thematically accurate song in the history of cinema.

In a move than manages to be simultaneously meta and fourth-wall-breaking, the movie picks up about four seconds after the last one ended. The crew are packing up equipment, extras are wandering off to do whatever it is extras do when they’re surplus to requirements and our cloth heroes are left to wonder what to do next. Enter promoter Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) who talks the gang into taking the show on the road. Meanwhile, in a Siberian gulag, a frog named Constantine, who looks exactly like Kermit save for a Monroe-esque mole and a Russian accent, is performing an audacious jailbreak to hook up with Badguy with the intent of stealing the crown jewels. For some reason. Cue mistaken identity which leads to Kermit being sent to Siberia while the Muppets go on a very concentrated European tour.

The reboot Muppet Movie from 2012 wasn’t perfect but it was decent fun. It had hilarious cameos, witty songs and great performances from Jason Segel and Amy Adams. This effort has none of those things. It’s an oddly plodding affair, lacking in pace and urgency. It’s nearly two hours long and it’s impossible to articulate why.

The whole Russian angle, despite Tina Fey’s best efforts as Nadya the gulag officer, feels quite awkward given current events. Gervais is comfortable in a role he’s played more than once. But it’s the script and songs that really disappoint, both lacking the heart and magic from a couple of years ago. Those expecting another Man or Muppet will still be waiting for it long after the end credits have rolled. There’s no magic. But this is Disney! Magic is what Disney does! Well, in this case, it disney.

In the absence of magic, there are some smiles, if not laughs, to be had. There’s a nod to Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal that’s more clever than funny. And Constantine’s constant referring to Miss Piggy as “Pig” in a thick Eastern European accent did make me grin. But these moments are few and far between and there aren’t enough cameos in the world that can turn a dog into a triumph. Perhaps they should have done a song about that.