Review: Muppets Most Wanted / Cert: U / Director: James Bobin / Screenplay: James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller / Starring: Ricky Gervais, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell / Release Date: March 28th
Back in 2011, James Bobin’s film The Muppets swept audiences off on a happy nostalgia trip, taking long-time fans back to their childhood and introducing newer generations to Jim Henson’s sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational host of characters. Since the '70s the Muppets have been on a great many capers – from road trips to treasure hunts – and now James Bobin is back with this sequel to his reboot. Bobin’s film showed us that Kermit and co still have a place in cinemas and furthermore revealed just how much many of us missed them. So has Bobin captured the magic once again?
Taking place straight after the last film, Muppets Most Wanted sees the gang acquire a new tour manager in Ricky Gervais’ shady Dominic Badguy (you’re ahead already, aren’t you?). Under his suggestion, the gang go on a lavish world tour, but the world’s most dangerous frog, Constantine (issue 398's cover star) has escaped and in a case of mistaken identity Kermit is arrested and Constantine imitates him on the tour, all in an attempt to pull off the biggest crime of the century. Will the gang uncover this green doppelganger? Or will Kermit be trapped in the inescapable Siberian Gulag?
Muppets Most Wanted is a sequel that chooses to make things bigger, and whilst that does not always indicate better, this globetrotting crime adventure is every bit as enjoyable as you would expect. The jokes are fast, vivacious and constantly irreverent, with Bobin and Stoller’s screenplay embellishing its musical trappings, creating some wicked tracks that will make even the tone deaf among you tap a foot (webbed or otherwise). Whereas the last film chose to focus on the past contrasted the present and how we all need a bit of vintage in our lives, this film takes the comeback of Muppetmania and grounds it in celebrity culture (especially the final third). The jokes may not all work but the ones that don’t are outnumbered by those that do. As for the celebrity cameos (which many cited as not starry enough last time around), they are pretty impressive (a film where Christoph Waltz does the waltz and where Usher appears as an usher, is somehow impossible to dislike!).
Certain fans may disapprove of some the occasional bigger effects used and the notable lack of Jason Segal/Amy Adams-esque warm human leads (although Tina Fey’s Russian prison guard Nadya, is terrifically barmy) but this is the Muppets' show and they are as loveable as ever. Ricky Gervais actually remains somewhat restrained in the film (which may disappoint some but it is actually a wise tactic, allowing the zany critters to bounce off him – sometimes literally). The puppet work is astounding in parts, and all the crew are present including Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Animal and Walter (introduced in the last film), with a bigger part this time for the stone-faced Sam the Eagle (whose on-screen partnership with Ty Burrell’s Interpol inspector is hilarious). Even those Muppet characters that don’t get big parts are allowed their comic zingers (the best of which may be Statler and Waldorf’s misinterpretation of a Berlin billboard). Although it is the villain Constantine who is the greatest find of this sequel, an old school moustache-twirling (or mole stroking in this case) baddie and the driving force for the occasionally unstructured country-hopping plot.
Muppets Most Wanted is like a stage show the director was too entertained to call “cut” on and while this means the craziness is stretched a bit at 113 minutes, audiences will emerge pleased. Bret McKenzie again pens some cracking musical numbers that progress the narrative and feel welcome as opposed to stuffed in. This is a film that does not far exceed expectations, but, like one of Fozzie’s gags, delivers exactly what you expect. Most will come away cheery, humming and more than ready to attend the next great Muppet caper.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10
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