Monday 14 April 2014

Film Review: Muppets Most Wanted

"Oh no! Disaster! It looks like they've ordered a sequel!" cries the opening number from Muppets Most Wanted. Except, a disaster this is not. Far from it in fact, as this second film since their 2011 'rebirth' shows that the Muppets are back by popular demand for good reason.

Come on everybody, strike up the band. The Muppets are back, and this time they're doing a sequel.

The 2011 Muppets film was actually the first film I reviewed on this here blog (and the review still makes me cringe to this day), but nevertheless, I felt a certain degree of fondness and eagerness towards this second film prior to seeing it. Thankfully, it didn't let me down.

On the whole, Most Wanted is more of the same from Henson's crop of famous felty friends; the humour is equal parts silly and referential, the characters are as loveable and iconic as ever and the guest stars are as wacky and random as you remember.

First off, the plot; Most Wanted picks up literally from where the first film left off. Hot on the heels of their comeback success, the Muppets are talked into doing a world tour by Ricky Gervais' conniving manager Dominic Badguy (it's French, apparently) and off they trot across Germany, Spain and the UK. Apparently a world tour comprises of three countries, all of which are in Europe. Along the way, Kermit the Frog unwittingly switches places with Constantine, the world's most dangerous frog, and sent off to a remote gulag in deepest Siberia. As you do.

If this sounds like a fairly generic and run-of-the-mill set-up, that's because it is. The world tour really just serves as a device for carting the Muppets around Europe, where they can make some puns about that country (Ein Berliner? More like ein Frankfurter!") before darting off to the next location. At the end of the day though, it doesn't really matter. The whole thing makes for some fun family-friendly escapades and happy songs, which is really all we're looking for in a Muppets movie ain't it?

What the film is lacking is the presence of Jason Segel and Amy Adams - I thought the two were a great combo in the first film, especially Segel, whose enthusiasm and passion for Jim Henson's creations was oozing out of the screen. In Most Wanted, it just isn't the same without them.

Don't get me wrong, the new additions are great - the trio of Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell certainly bring lots of laughs to the table. Gervais, who is by no means everyone's cup of tea, is a hoot as 'number two' to Constantine, and even his pretty flat singing doesn't detract from his worthy addition to the cast. By far the best of the trio however is Ty Burrell, best known for his role as Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. Burrell plays a French Interpol agent, complete with thin upper-lip fuzz and six hour long lunch breaks. He is by far the funniest part of the whole thing - and how his character pronounces Muppets (Moopets, of course) never gets old.

I found that the songs were a bit hit and miss - some are seriously good, and dangerously catchy, such as the opening number 'We're Doing a Sequel!', which contains the brilliantly wry line 'everybody knows that the sequel is never quite as good'. Tina Fey's shining moment in 'The Big House' is also great, as is the the cheeky 'I'm Number One' with Gervais. I found that some of the others quickly faded into the background; 'Something So Right' with Celine Dion springs to mind. Unfortunately, nothing really reaches the heights of 'Life's A Happy Song' or 'Man or Muppet' from the first film.

The same can be said for some of the cameos - whilst some are good (James McAvoy, Chloe Moretz), others fail to register as a joke (Tom Hiddleston) or are just a lazy pun - look, it's Usher! And he's playing an usher! Hah!

It might sound like I'm giving this film a tough time for not being as amazing as the first, and that's because it isn't. On the other hand, those are some mighty high expectations. Viewed on its own merits, Muppets Most Wanted is a suitably zany and funny addition to the series, one definitely worth your time regardless of whether your a die-hard fan of Henson's plethora of characters, or a fairly casual viewer such as myself.

The Verdict: 7/10

It isn't perfect, and isn't as good as its predecessor, but Muppets Most Wanted is still an entertaining film with wide-ranging appeal to kids and adults alike. Fey, Gervais and Burrell make for a great lead trio alongside everybody's favourite felt friends. Anyone for a threequel?

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