Published on April 9th, 2014 | by Curtis Mayfield
Muppets Most Wanted – Film Review
Reviewed by Curtis Mayfield M-H on March 26th, 2014
Walt Disney Pictures presents a film by James Bobin
Produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman
Written by James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell
Cinematography by Don Burgess
Music by Christophe Beck
Editing by James Thomas
Running Time: 107 minutes
Release Date: April 10th, 2014
As the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is exactly what Walt Disney Pictures were thinking when they gave the green light to Most Wanted, the sequel to 2011’s The Muppets. This time around we’re without Jason Segel in both acting and writing. There’s no Amy Adams either. This is not a problem though as other big names in comedy have jumped on board this time. There’s Ricky Gervais, who wears the black hat as Dominic Badguy. Tina Fey plays a Serbian prison warden called Nadya. Modern Family’s Ty Burrell channels his inner Inspector Clouseau, playing the role of a French Interpol agent called Jean Pierre Napoleon. That last character name is just one of many winks to the audience that occur throughout the film.
And of course there are all the Muppets too. The main attractions are Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, Animal and of course Kermit, along with the other usual suspects of puppet friends. Newcomer Walter returns from the last movie but is a little underused this time, which seems like a loss of momentum considering the story was based around his character in the previous film. Muppets Most Wanted starts off where we left them last time. The opening scene begins with the last movie’s big finale, leaving the Muppets to ask the golden question: What are we going to do now? This is where the best qualities of the Muppets franchise shine as they break out into an amazing song and dance that is all tongue in cheek. The opening track, created brilliantly by Brett McKenzie, not only sets the plot in motion but also beats critics to the punch with just one line: “We’re doing a sequel that’s what we do in Hollywood/and everybody knows that the sequel is not quite as good”.
The plot beings with the Muppets embarking on a world tour with their live stage show. The complication is introduced in the form of Dominic Badguy, who disguises himself as a successful tour manager but is actually the world’s second most wanted jewel thief. The first most wanted criminal being Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog, who by chance manages to look exactly like Kermit the Frog but with a mole on his face. Voiced by Matt Vogel, Constantine sounds like a mixture of Borat and Gru from Despicable Me, which creates some hilarious results. As Badguy takes the band of puppets around Europe in order to carry out his jewel heisting plans, he kidnaps Kermit and frames him as the newly escaped Constantine. Those looking to point out holes in the plot need not apply as writers James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller have already taken on that job. The two basically take the ridiculousness of the story and spin it to their advantage, using techniques like breaking the fourth wall to tell an inside joke to the audience.
The plot plays backseat to the gags and celebrity cameos and that’s just fine. Expecting an amazing, intricate story is not in order here. It’s all about enjoying the ride. Gervais does what he does best by applying his subtle yet effective comedic wit to the movie and carries on. Even though Fey and Gervais are the big draw cards for this film it is Ty Burrell who is the quiet achiever. The Frenchman reluctantly teams up with American CIA officer Sam the Eagle to track down and capture the world’s second most wanted criminal only known as “The Lemur”. This alliance brings out the best comedic chemistry between man and puppet since…well ever. The bickering between the two displays the hilarious stereotypes of both Americans and Europeans with America’s love for the over-sized and spectacular and the European’s tendency to work only into the early afternoon and drive absurdly small cars. “This is my car. It is illegal now for its massive size,” Napoleon says as the two squeeze into the clown sized vehicle.
Not to discount Fey here as she has some of the film’s most hilarious lines. “I have seen every American prison escape movie Frog.” She says as she catches Kermit attempting to Shawshank Redemption his way out of the prison. Another one of the movie’s most amusing scenes goes to the other small green Muppet. A scene where Constantine attempts to emulate Kermit’s voice and mannerisms by watching old videos of The Muppet Show is comedy brilliance. But with all the singing, dancing and celebrity cameos the film still seems to be lacking something and it’s not easy trying to figure out what that is. It may just be that it has been such a short time since we last saw the Muppets on a big screen that the nostalgia and excitement isn’t as great. There was a build up to the last film where this one just sort of happened.
Overall, it’s hard to take this movie seriously and that’s exactly the way it should be. The lack of plot and stability to the story isn’t what’s important and writer-director James Bobin knows this. The jokes still aim high as not to patronize the audience but the important element of the tongue in cheek jokes are paramount. Brett McKenzie and Christophe Beck have succeeded once again with the musical component providing most of the laughs. Even though the human actors may be some of the biggest names in 21st century comedy, they don’t outshine what audiences will want to see: hilarious puppet characters we’ve grown up with making us laugh at the ridiculous.
Summary: The jokes still aim high as not to patronize the audience but the important element of the tongue in cheek jokes are paramount.