Muppets Most Wanted

Director: James Bobin

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz

Written by: James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller and (based on characters created ) Jim Henson

Running Time: 113 mins

Cert: U

Release date: 28th March 2014

At the beginning of the second of the resurgence Muppets movies, Muppets Most Wanted, is a spot-on satirical musical number about sequels, with the line, “everybody knows the sequel’s never quite as good.” While very funny, it’s a shame this is here because, as they say, this isn’t as good as The Muppets. It’s still fun but things aren’t as rosy as they were in the first film.

Having been revived, Kermit and his Muppet friends are riding a crest of a wave and they are persuaded by agent,  Dominic Badguy, to go on a world tour. What The Muppets don’t realise is that this is just a cover for a criminal act involving museums, as Badguy is joined by the world’s number 1 most dangerous frog, Constantine, recently escaped from Gulag, who, apart from a mole, looks exactly like Kermit. The famous frog is given a fake mole and is immediately arrested and taken back to the Serbian prison, where he is forced to create a show for Prison Warden, Nadya, and her inmates. Meanwhile, as the Muppets move from European city, with Constantine and Badguy using the show as cover for the crimes, leading to London and the crown jewels.

The Muppets director James Bobin is back behind the camera which does help with keep the surreal and sometimes inventive moments that made the first film such a joy but with an extended running time, too much plot and far too many celebrity cameos, the film does have more silences than big laughs. Not that there are not any, the comedy is strong but when you compare it to The Muppets, it lacks the amount of laughs. This could be because Bobin and co-writer, Nicholas Stoller, try to cram far too much in.

So we get the criminal story-line, the Kermit in Russia story, Miss Piggy’s longing for a wedding and, the best story, that of Sam The Eagle joining forces with French Interpol officer, Jean Pierre Napoleon (a spin-off movie with just these two would be most welcoming). While they do cross over neatly, it becomes draining along with the hundreds of furry creatures that join with each tale. It also becomes apparent that the real life actors also affect each part, with the weakest being the main thread involving the criminal aspect.

As Dominic Badguy, Ricky Gervais is, well, Ricky Gervais and he becomes second fiddle to a Constantine, with the evil frog trying to produce Kermit’s voice without any real success and yet no one really notices (apart from Animal). Gervais does what he does but it isn’t funny enough or different enough to make this part interesting. The Russian section also somewhat sits uncomfortably considering the current difficulties in Ukraine. Yet it does have some of the funnier and more surreal moments, with Tina Fey enjoying herself as Nadya and what brings some the bigger laughs, seeing Hollywood hard men, Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo performing “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line.

The real star of the film is Ty Burrell as  Jean Pierre Napoleon. With an accent straight out of Inspector Clouseau, his scenes with Sam The Eagle are brilliantly realised, with obvious French stereotyping thrown in for comic effect and yet they don’t seem offensive and are just plain funny. A musical number in which they interrogate the Muppets, is one of the real high-points.

Bret McKensie also returns as the song writer and, yes there are some very clever lyrics and well staged sequences but nothing matches It’s A Happy Song or the genius that is Man Or Muppet.

The Muppets have always used celebrities in their shows and films and while the first film didn’t overuse them, here they are almost brimming from every scenes, some used very cleverly, others completely pointless. While it is funny to see Usher as…an Usher, or Tom Hiddleston as The Great Escapo, the film relies on these guest spots far too much and they get in the way, distracting you away from the complex plotting and sub-plotting.

Running at a hefty 113 minutes, this is far too long for a family film and the children in the screening I was at were getting very restless. Not a good sight and especially after the zippiness of The Lego Movie, this needed to take heed. It still has loads to enjoy and fans of the furry puppets will lap up every single moment but after the brilliance of The Muppets, a sequel just as good was always going to be hard. I laughed out loud on several occasions but not as much as the first film.

3/5

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