Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: James Bobin
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, Tony Bennett, Hugh Bonneville, Jermaine Clement, Sean Combs, Rob Corddry, Mackenzie Crook, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Zach Galifianakis, Josh Groban, Salma Hayek, Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hollander, Toby Jones, Frank Langella, James McAvoy, Chloe Grace Moretz, Usher Raymond, Miranda Richardson, Saoirse Ronan, Til Schweger, Stanley Tucci, Christoph Waltz, voices of Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Groelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel.
I quite enjoyed the 2011 reboot of Jim Henson’s popular hand puppet Muppet characters, which
was made by Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel, who were fans of the original Muppets and
wanted to pay homage to the characters who had been virtually absent from screens for a
decade. Stoller and Segel were better known for their raunchy adult comedies like Forgetting
Sarah Marshall, and they brought a slight edge to the familiar Muppet characters, who always had
an enderaing air of innocence about them and their comic mayhem.
That self-referential quality, sense of nostalgia and edge is missing from this inevitable sequel,
which is made for older audiences who probably grew up with the Muppets on television rather
than the younger audiences of today. James Bobin, who also directed the original Muppet Movie
from two years ago, returns giving the film some consistency. But somehow Muppets Most
Wanted is a bit more ambitious than its predecessor, and it also lacks that sense of freshness and
the nostalgic touch that was a big part of its appeal. It’s not as bad as Muppets From Space, but
there are some moments that do fall flat.
Following the triumphant reunion of the Muppets and their return to the limelight the gang wonder
what is next for them. They are approached by the dubious promoter Dominic Badguy (Ricky
Gervais), who offers to manage them on a world tour. He has apparently arranged for them to
play in some of the world’s major theatres. The Muppets agree, unaware that Badguy is actually a
master criminal intent on robbing some of the world’s most prestigious museums, which are
conveniently located next door to these theatres. Badguy is following a trail of clues that will
eventually lead him to the key to unlocking the Crown Jewels of London.
Badguy is in league with Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog (voiced by Matt Vogel),
who resembles our hero Kermit, apart from a prominent mole on his right cheek. Constantine is
incarcerated in a Siberian gulag, but manages to escape and make his way to Berlin to meet
Badguy. There he arranges to have the lookalike Kermit (voiced by Steve Whitmire) kidnapped
and sent to the gulag in his place. Constantine replaces Kermit for the tour, and gives the rest of
the Muppets the creative freedome to do whatever they want on stage. None of his fellow
Muppets are suspicious that Kermit now speaks with a strange and heavy accent.
Following the trail of museum breakins though are Sam the Eagle and the incompetent Interpol
agent Jean-Pierre Napoleon (Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell), a cheap Inspector Clouseau clone, and
parallels to the Pink Panther series of movies are obvious. And the film seems to be copying
some plot devices from 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper which saw the characters caught up in a
While the Muppets continue their tour of some of Europe’s most picturesque cities, Kermit is stuck
in the gulag in the middle of nowhere. The strict prison supervisor Nadya (Tina Fey) is infatuated
with Kermit and forced him to oversee rehearsals for the annual revue. Amongst the prisoners are
tough guys like Danny Trejo (Machete himself), who looks uncomfortable singing and dancing,
and Ray Liotta, who also seems a little nonplussed.
Meanwhile Miss Piggy (voiced by Eric Jacobson) is heartened by Kermit’s new attitude and is still
keen to get married. It seems that wedding bells are in the air and Miss Piggy is about to realise
her dream. Eventually though Fozzie, Animal and Walter realise that Kermit is an imposter and
set out to find and rescue their friend and restore order to the Muppet troupe.
One of the highlights of the Muppets television series was the roster of big name guest stars who
regularly appeared and who seemed willing to play around with their image while they were
treated with irreverence. Muppets Most Wanted features a huge roster of guest stars, most of who
will be unknown to the younger members of the audience. We get cameos from the likes of
crooner Tony Bennett, Celine Dion and Lady Gaga essentially playing themselves, while Downton
Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville, Flight Of The Conchords’ Jermaine Clement, rapper Sean Combs,
Frank Langella, James McAvoy, Loki himself Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hollander, Rob Corddry,
Chloe Grace Moretz, Miranda Richardson and Stanley Tucci appear in blink and you miss them
But there seems to be no real inspiration behind these celebrity cameos and they seem forced.
There’s a brief gag about hip hop singer Usher Raymond being an usher at a wedding, while poor
Christoph Waltz is trotted out to perform a waltz, and the hapless Salma Hayek participates in an
indoor running of the bulls act as part of the Muppets stage show.
Through his television work in The Office and various hosting gigs, Gervais has perfected a
sardonic style of humour, and the role of the villainous Badguy suits him well. There is a healthy
rivalry between him and Constantine as to who is the biggest and baddest criminal mastermind.
But it occasionally seems as if Gervais is merely going through the motions here, and is not fully
engaged with his character.
Muppets Most Wanted contains some cheap, groan inducing puns which older audiences may
appreciate, while younger audiences will enjoy the silly sight gags. There are also a couple of
quite decent and catchy songs here written by Conchords’ Bret McKenzie. But the film lacks the
freshness and creative spark of its predecessor. It’s almost as if the thought of doing an obligatory
sequel has rendered the material a little flat.
There is some great scenery though and Don Burgess’ cinematography looks good, as the
Muppets travelling stage show moves through some of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
At heart Muppets Most Wanted is an energetic and farcical caper comedy, but the movie also
spoofs a number of other movie genres here, including the prison genre. However, the send up of
Bergman’s existential drama The Seventh Seal will probably be lost to most in the audience. And
that is part of the problem with the film while it is lioght and enjoyable enough, some of it is just
not that funny! Waldorf and Statler’s putdowns here lack bite.
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