Muppets Most Wanted: Movie Review
Cast: The Muppets, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Jemaine Clement, Ty Burrell
Director: James Bobin
Following the success of The Muppets movie in 2011, it was no surprise to see they'd return, having been a massive worldwide box office smash.
This time, it's back to the Muppets formula and a caper rather than a nostalgia-twinged piece, which hit all the right notes - and the heart and fondness for these childhood puppet faves from yesterday.
In the latest, The Muppets are embarking on a grand world tour, having been taken on by their new manager Dominic Badguy (Gervais) - however, they're soon embroiled in a stolen jewel caper, spearheaded by a Kermit the Frog look-a-like Constantine (Kermit with a Russian accent and mole).
And things get worse when the real Kermit is imprisoned in a Russian Gulag, in a case of mistaken identity....
Muppets Most Wanted suffers in in comparison to and being released after The Muppets Movie from 2011, a film that managed to encapsulate a clever mix of self-awareness, parody, all wrapped up in a fuzzy felted glow of nostalgia and charm.
It's not that there's anything wrong with that - it's a perfect kids movie, but for adults, this Muppet movie is a film that is more smoke and mirrors, stuffed to the gills initially with songs and more celebrity cameos than you've ever seen (seriously, I lost count at the number of people walking on for one line and disappearing) as opposed to a strong plot, blessed with the heart and warmth of its predecessor.
That said, in among the pleasantly amusing but totally predictable movie, the music (done once by Bret McKenzie) is a great eclectic mix of roof-raising numbers, reminiscent of and mixing in many styles from the 80s and old school music-hall films; there's certainly no denying once the band strikes up, you can't help but get carried along by the gusto and clever word-play.
Of the live cast, Gervais shows a flair for song and dance and it's clear he's having fun with the fuzzy felt brigade; Ty Burrell (aka Phil Dunphy from Modern Family) mocks the French and Europeans as an Inspector Clouseau-style sleuth, paired up with Sam the American Eagle to investigate the robberies; and Tina Fey dons a dodgy Russian accent to head up the Gulag where Kermit / Constantine is imprisoned (though, to be fair, more credit needs to go to Jemaine Clement, Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo as the heads of the prisoners in the Gulag). And Celine Dion gains much credibility for sending herself up in one of the most surprising cameos.
Kids will enjoy this film, a silly mix of one liners (watch Christoph Waltz do the, erm, waltz) and the general paciness and gags of the old school variety family film. But the cynical adults, who were so touched with nostalgic affection during the last film, may find themselves ruing the lack of depth in this one, laughing at the gags, but find that keeping count of the celebrity cameos is cold comfort as the story, such as it is, goes on to an end.
(It's also worth getting to Muppets Most Wanted early for the short Monsters University film which puts Mike and Sully in the position of creating the greatest frat party ever - and packs more fun and creativity in than the actual film Monsters University managed to...)