12th Mar2014

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: The Muppets, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, Tom Hiddleston | Written by James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller | Directed by James Bobin

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Muppets Most Wanted arrives in what feels like no time at all since the long-awaited previous film. I was honestly quite shocked to see the screening invite in my inbox. After the twelve year wait for The Muppets, this is most welcome, though the quick turnaround of this film perhaps makes its arrival seem a little less special than previously. In addition, the total absence of Jason Segel, who proved to be an instrumental figure in getting the previous film off the ground with a starring and writing role, is perhaps not quite a cause for concern but certainly raises an eyebrow.

Any doubts about the film are quickly put to rest in the opening musical number, ‘We’re Doing a Sequel’, which sets the comedic tone for the rest of the film (sample lyrics: ‘We’re doing a sequel, that’s what they do in Hollywood, and everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good’).

Picking up directly after the last film, The Muppets hire Ricky Gervais’s Dominic Badguy (it’s pronounced ‘Bad-gee’) to book them on an international tour in order to capitalise on their new found success. Unsurprisingly, Badguy has an ulterior motive and is actually working with Constantine, the World’s Most Dangerous Frog. Constantine is a dead ringer for Kermit the Frog and manages to switch places with him, leaving Constantine in charge of The Muppets and able to use their tour to steal artefacts from Europe’s best museums and Kermit in a Russian Gulag.

As with most Muppets films, Most Wanted is properly laugh-out-loud funny. Whether it’s because of cleverly written, self-aware jokes, slapstick comedy, blink and you’ll miss ‘em sight gags or just through sheer surrealism, chances are you will laugh loudly and frequently. Perhaps the biggest giggles for me were caused by Constantine’s ridiculously OTT accent, which is even funnier when he attempts to imitate Kermit.

Alongside the Muppet performers, a trio of human actors provides more than adequate support. A pleasingly game Gervais gets the most screen time, whilst Modern Family’s Ty Burrell amuses as a French Interpol agent who teams up with Sam Eagle to find Constantine and the ever-delightful Tina Fey plays a Gulag officer. There’s also a frankly silly amount of cameos, including but by no means limited to Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, Christoph Waltz and Salma Hayek.

My only real problem with the film was an over-reliance on CGI in some scenes. I’d be surprised – and impressed – if no previous Muppets film had used CGI but I’ve never noticed it being used so blatantly before, which was fairly jarring. This, however, is a pretty small criticism in what is otherwise a very fine film. It’s very funny, clever and wholly entertaining. It may lack a little of the lustre and invention of the last film and isn’t quite as satisfying, but a Muppets movie is never unwelcome and, rather like Gonzo, Muppets Most Wanted is a great addition to the canon.

Muppets Most Wanted hits UK cinemas on Friday March 28th.

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