24 March 2014


There are few sequels to well-received movies that could get away with grabbing the audience's expectations by the horns in quite the way that Muppets Most Wanted does. As though anticipating some kind of indoor-running-of-the-bulls in cinemas after the success of 2012's pitch-perfect reboot, they even open with a self-deprecating number about the pitfalls of sequels, (and then made a note of that indoor-running-of-the-bulls thing for later.) Aaaand we're back.

With the difficulty of following the super-meta reunion well and truly lamp-shaded, director James Bobin leads on in much the same vein. The Muppets are wondering what to do now that they're enjoying "a moment" in the limelight, when they're approached by talent manager Dominic Badguy (pr: bad╦łgee/) with a pitch for a world tour. Kermit is reluctant to accept, and with good reason- it's all a ruse by the world's most dangerous frog, Constantine, to frame the Muppets for a global spree of robberies while posing as his more famous froggy doppleganger.

As a human person first and a reviewer second, I tend to change my mind about some things I write on here, a year or two after they've been posted. In my defence, my review of The Muppets was my best attempt to keep a critical head on, to write about a film that is purely and infectiously joyful, but it's also full of wrong, and in hindsight, I'd be prepared to say that it's one of the best franchise reboots ever. This time around, I'm mostly prepared to talk about how marvellous Muppets Most Wanted is, as the kind of hilarious, feel-good cinema experience that I haven't had since... well, the last time this creative team joined forces with this company of felt weirdos.

At the same time as there's some blatant acknowledgement of the sequel thing, this could have been a cover version of their original second movie, the globe-trotting Great Muppet Caper, but it errs just on the right side of affectionate homage. It also continues to wear its licence to be silly with pride, and even finds an excuse to deliver more of the ambitiously daft Muppet Show skits that proved to be the best part of the previous film's third act, even if this does once again raise the thought that television might still be the best medium for the Muppets. 

Two years after that tour-de-force ending, we're still missing a regular Muppet Show on TV, despite a disappointing Thanksgiving special, which cemented Lady Gaga as my least favourite Muppet, in the intervening period. Part of the fun of Most Wanted and the previous films has been in seeing how the characters are adapted into a deliberately ridiculous cinematic plot structure, and the talents at work on these movies are almost worth the trade-up of waiting at least two years between a fix, instead of getting a weekly variety show in the classic format.

Sure, there are loads of one-shot cameos by A-list stars, but it's the steady hands of Bobin, his co-writer Nicholas Stoller, and music supervisor Bret McKenzie that have really steered these two movies to success. In particular, McKenzie has played another blinder on the soundtrack, with song highlights including "The Big House", a show-stopping number from Tina Fey's Broadway-loving prison official, and "I'll Get You What You Want", a cheesy, nostalgic ballad that wins the sequel's ear-worm award. Oh, and I'm calling right now, Miss Piggy's "Something So Right" is this year's "Let It Go" from Frozen- the song that you know will be up for Best Song at the next Oscars as soon as it's over.

As usual with really good comedy, it's tough to write about without spoiling the best bits. Kermit is really front and centre in some of the film's best gags, once he's dropped into the Siberian gulag that recently housed his insidious twin- he's got tremendous support from the aforementioned Tina Fey, (who really steals the whole bloody show) and her cameo-tastic roster of inmates. But as expected, most of the Muppet cast get individual standout moments too, including one fourth-wall-breaking joke about new addition Walter, delivered by a bunch of instantly recognisable, but recently lesser-seen Muppets, which addresses some fans' quibbles with the last film (mine included) head-on.

If there's one major drawback with the film, it's the casting of Ricky Gervais. He really isn't given much to work with here- given the entirely excusable silliness of the plot, it's a shame that he's largely relegated to Basil Exposition-ing his way through Constantine's dastardly plans. There's none of his obvious enthusiasm for the characters, which has come across so infectiously in interviews about his role, because he's playing the straight man to a straight frog. You don't even have to look outside of this movie, for a better example of how good this pairing should have been- Ty Burrell and Sam the Eagle have a hilarious buddy-cop sub-plot that would be more than enough fuel for a spin-off movie all by itself.

Muppets Most Wanted knows it has a lot of work to do to measure up to its well-received predecessor, and literally makes a song-and-dance of accomplishing its task. Sensibly, when the perfect pairing of Amy Adams and Jason Segel moved on, they decided to focus more on the Muppets, which simultaneously hides some of the problems with Gervais, and gives Fey and Burrell ample opportunities to shine in supporting roles. 

The result is another toe-tappingly, side-splittingly marvellous Muppet movie, with tonnes of laughs and great musical moments. If it suffers in comparison to the previous film, it suffers less than pretty much every other Muppet-less family comedy in the last two years, and it's almost disappointing to think we'll have to wait at least two more years for the next one.

Muppets Most Wanted is previewing in cinemas nationwide on Wednesday, before going on general release this Friday.
If you've seen Muppets Most Wanted, why not share your comments below? Also, sound off about the Monsters University short, Party Central- maybe the funniest use of the door stations we've yet seen...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice review Mark. Basically, it's fun for many. Especially those who are already fans of the Muppets as is.