Review: Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

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Director: James Bobin
Screenwriters: Nicholas Stoller & James Bobin
Voice Cast: Steve Whitmore, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta & David Rudman
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell & Tina Fey
Runtime: 107 min // Certificate: U

“We’re doing a sequel
We’re back by popular demand
C’mon everybody, strike up the band!
We’re doing a sequel
That’s what we do in Hollywood,
And everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good”

So goes the first verse of Muppets Most Wanted’s show-opening song, probably in an attempt to temper expectations before the film even starts. Well, though it might lack the warmth and nostalgic charm of its immediate predecessor, whose job it was to “reboot” the iconic puppets for a new generation, Muppets Most Wanted is still a laugh-a-minute romp that does everything you could possibly want from a film starring everyone’s favourite Henson creations, with jokes that will appeal to both adults and children, and an obvious, heartfelt adoration for these wonderful characters’ rich, entertaining history.

Picking up where the previous film left off, Muppets Most Wanted follows the gang as they embark on a World tour under the guidance of their new agent, Dominic Badguy – pronounced “Bad-gee” (it’s French) – played by Ricky Gervais. Meanwhile Constantine, an evil frog who – save for a mole on his face – bears a striking resemblance to Kermit has escaped from a Siberian gulag and wants to infiltrate the Muppets’ tour so he can steal the Crown Jewels. Before you know it, Kermit has been chucked into the Gulag, Constantine and Dominic are in charge of the Muppets and Miss Piggy is preparing to walk down the aisle with a Kermit lookalike with a dodgy Eastern European accent. What a disaster!

Ok, so the plot is paper thin and ridiculous but who cares when the film is so funny? If you’re a fan of the Muppets, their latest outing will cater to all of your needs; it’s chock-full of characters, it’s jam packed with jokes (some of which don’t work, but there’s always another one just around the corner to get things moving in the right direction again) and it never loses sight of what it is that makes each individual Muppet so lovable. Kermit is still sensible and under the thumb, Animal is still bonkers, Fozzie is still hilariously dim, Statler and Waldorf (my personal favourites) are still sarcastic bastards and Miss Piggy (or “Pig”, as Constantine calls her) is still blindly convinced that she is talented. Of course, with so many characters deserving their moment to shine and such a barmy, globe-spanning story to fit in, the film does have a tendency to feel a bit bloated, though thanks to the constant stream of gags it remains – despite its issues – wonderfully entertaining.

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There are a few problems with the film’s pacing, namely that it is a bit repetitive and slightly too long, and I’m not sure quite so much screen time needed to be given to Tina Fey (even though her character is great), but these are incidental snags. The film throws the jokes at you thick and fast, with many of them designed to appeal more to parents than their children, and the songs, though mostly unmemorable (with a few brilliant exceptions), are fun and infuriatingly catchy, as all the best Muppets songs are. The voice performances are brilliant, the human cast is decent (Ty Burrell in particular is hilarious as a stereotypical French Interpol detective) and the cameos – though occasionally cringe worthy – should bring a smile to the face of even the most stony-hearted person.

Basically, if you love the Muppets you’ll love – or at least like – their latest adventure. It’s not perfect and it lacks the charm of some of its predecessors but, as comedies go, it’s far better than most of the tripe I’ve seen so far this year. If you judge a comedy by the number of times you laugh then, for me, this film is an unequivocal success. It might not be clever and it might not be your kind of film, but if you want to spend two hours in the company of the inner child you forgot you had, you really can’t go far wrong with Muppets Most Wanted.

★★★½

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