Starring: Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Ty Burrell (Mr. Peabody & Sherman)
Director: James Bobin (The Muppets)
Writers: James Bobin & Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes
Release Date: 21 March (US), 28 March (UK)
2011’s The Muppets was a highly enjoyable nostalgia trip that effectively reintroduced those classic felt characters with plenty of affection and self-deprecation. And, as the film’s opening number tells us, popular demand means we get a sequel. But without star and co-writer Jason Segel, can this new Muppet adventure continue the success of it predecessor?
The story picks up exactly where the first film left off (literally to the final frame) and continues from there. Anyone wondering what happened to Segel and Amy Adams should be disappointed as, other than the backs of some stand-ins, they are never seen or mentioned again. The film’s plot is a basic but effective set-up, allowing for a variety of worldwide locales to be lampooned but the formula does quickly fall into routine. The Muppets go to a new country, they put on a show whilst Konstantin and Dominic (Gervais) rob a place, they leave, Sam the Eagle and Jean Napoleon (Burrell) pick up the clues, repeat. The film does pad out proceedings with some sub-plots, but a lot of them like Dominic’s desire to be number 1 or Nadya’s (Fey) affection for Kermit feel underdeveloped. Luckily, the film manages to hide behind its humour a lot, which keeps proceedings jovial and entertaining.
The Muppets are all pretty much as you remember them but, much like the last film, many of them have been pushed to the sidelines (major note to filmmakers: needs more Swedish Chef!). Walter is still here from the last movie and is as bland as ever, especially considering he doesn’t have as much reason to exist anymore. The human performances are mostly good. Ty Burrell is easily the standout as Interpol agent Napoleon; his chemistry with Sam the Eagle is consistently amusing and the constant jokes about how lazy and laid-back the French are kept me laughing throughout. The two of them together are funny enough that they could easily hold an entire movie on their own. Fey is effective when she’s around, but she doesn’t get quite enough the screen time. Like in the last film, they’ve pack this thing to the brim with cameos. I won’t spoil any of them, but though most of them are brief many are very hilarious. Unfortunately, Ricky Gervais’ Dominic sticks out like a sore thumb and somewhat ruins proceedings. He’s clearly trying, but his dry comedic skills aren’t suited to this brand of humour and the script never plays to his strengths. A much more lively and charming actor would have been better suited to this role.
The Muppet films have always been known for their songs, and Bret Mackenzie of Flight of the Conchords returns to compose the new tunes. The film gets off to a great start with “We’re Doing a Sequel”, which is both catchy and humorous in all the right ways, but after that they somewhat fall into routine. The songs are fun to listen to as they play out, but none of them stick in your head like the songs from the first film. It sometimes feels like the filmmakers went, “They’re hasn’t been a song in twenty minutes! Throw in another one!” On a technical level, the film looks fine. The Muppets are still all done practically, but there does seem to be a lot more CG assistance this time around as the film calls for them to get involved in more action beats. When these moments arise, it can look somewhat cheesy but you could say that just adds to the charm.
Muppets Most Wanted is enjoyable and amusing, but it never quite hits the high notes of its predecessor. I was definitely entertained throughout (Ty Burrell alone is worth the price of admission), but I think it ultimately lacks the sentimental charm of the original. If you’re a Muppet fan I’m sure you’ll find plenty to like, but I’d advise calming down your expectations. As the film is ironically aware, “everybody knows the sequel’s never quite as good”.
FINAL VERDICT: 7/10