– Summary –
Director : James Bobin
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Scooter, Gonzo, Sam the Eagle, Constantine, Walter, Rowlf, Rizzo The Rat, Janice, Animal, The Swedish Chef, et al.
Approx Running Time : 117 Minutes
Synopsis: The Muppets, now back together, go on a world tour organised by “manager” Dominic Badguy, while Kermit is sent to a Siberian gulag when he’s mistaken for arch criminal Constantine; meanwhile the real Constantine pretends to be Kermit the Frog, and goes about with Badguy trying to steal the Crown Jewels.
What we think : An hour and three quarters of meta-jokes, slapstick, songs, Hollywood cameos, and that unique brand of zany Muppet humor: what more do you need me to say? Although there’s a weird amount of time spent with the film’s key villains, the sense of fun and humor of 2011’s reboot remains as evident as always in this sequel. A lot of fun, and plenty of laughs.
Utterly entertational. Is that even a word?
If you ever wanted to see Danny Trejo singing a cabaret number (and if you haven’t, why not?), then have I found the film for you. Muppets Most Wanted, the sequel to 2011’s hugely successful soft reboot of the Muppet franchise, sees the story pick up directly following the saving of the Muppet Theater, only to go on a World Tour at the behest of ingratiating manager Dominic Badguy (it’s pronounced “Badgee”, apparently it’s French). As with most Muppet films (or, frankly, all of them), the story comes second to the opportunity to sneak a gag in, be it within context or – most importantly – utterly meta to the point of ridiculousness. Muppets Most Wanted delivers just that, and probably more, within its lengthy just-under-two-hour running time, as it skewers all manner of genres and subtle film references – the opening five minutes reference not only Oldboy but also Apocalypse Now, obscurely, while in-film references to The Great Escape and The Shawshank Redemption offer some nice laughs – to varying degrees of success. Naturally, the insanity of a Muppet film is aided by copious celebrity cameos, ranging from the excellent (one of Canada’s most successful female divas makes an appearance) to the really average (the aforementioned Danny Trejo has a momentary lapse in judgement by agreeing to sing in a film!), but the mantra of “anything for a laugh” has never been more pronounced than it is with Most Wanted.
Immediately following the events of The Muppets, Kermit and the gang realize that they should capitalize on their new-found fame, only they cannot agree on the best course of action to take. At the suggestion of Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), an international manager of some acclaim, the Muppets agree to go on a world tour. Meanwhile, somewhere in Siberia, the worlds most dangerous criminal, Constantine (who looks a lot like Kermit the Frog save for a single blaack mole on his cheek) escapes, and makes his way to meet up with Dominic, where the two hatch their plan to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, using the Muppets as cover. With Kermit mistaken for Constantine and thrown back into the gulag, and Constantine doing a horrible impression of Kermit (although not horrible enough to be noticed), only Walter begins to have suspicions that all is not right with his amphibious idol. As Constantine and Dominic begin to put together their plan to steal the jewels, they are followed by Interpol Agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), and CIA Agent Sam The Eagle, who are both on the hunt for the criminal mastermind known as The Lemur. When they track the Lemur to the Muppets World Tour, the jigsaw begins to fall into place.
Zany. Kooky. Daffy. Words often used to describe the Muppets and their brand of slapstick irreverence: Muppets Most Wanted is a loose story strung around a series of pratfalls, musical numbers and very dodgy celebrity cameos, filled to the brim with gag-a-minute comedy that works far more often than it doesn’t. Muppet movies are the children’s equivalent of the Naked Gun movies, in that the story is inherently secondary to the excuse to ply audiences with sight gags, double entendre and meta-contextual humor in such rapidity that there’s no time to dwell on what doesn’t work. Honestly though, most of Muppets Most Wanted works, and what little material here doesn’t, isn’t worth worrying about. Perhaps most troubling is the film’s focus on the Bad Guys, namely, Badguy and Constantine, which deprives us of more of the Muppety goodness we actually want to see. Gervais, no stranger to comedy (some of which is actually pretty good) knows how to milk a laugh when he can, and does so effectively and with that sly glimmer in his eye that he’s just part of some cosmic joke.
Constantine, however, is a different kettle. As a doppelganger to Kermit, Constantine provides a few decent laughs as he hoodwinks the hapless Muppet crew into believing he’s actually Kermit, using merely green paint to hide the mole on his cheek. Much of the film’s first-half humor is in Fozzie, Piggie, Gonzo and everyone else’s inability to perceive Constantine for who he is, relying on blind faith in “Kermit’s” testament that he’s “got a cold” to escape detection. Yet the joke runs its course, and Constantine isn’t really that effective a bad guy – his constant belittling of Dominic as “number 2”, similar to Doctor Evil from the Austin Powers franchise, is subtle and well done, however – so it soon becomes obvious that the film is leaning on Dominic’s reveal (spoiler, he’s actually the Lemur, which will come as no surprise to anyone!) to hold the latter stages of the film together. The real Kermit’s isolation from the main group of Muppets is also something I had trouble with in parts, mainly because it’s his rapport with Piggie and Co that keep the humor we all love bubbling along. By keeping Kermit out of the picture for as long as the film does minimizes a lot of the mid-section laughs, although this isn’t saying much because there’s still more than enough to satisfy. It’s only a small thing, but worth noting.
In keeping with Muppet tradition, the film has a number of sharp (and ot so sharp) musical numbers, from the delightfully witty opening “We’re Doing A Sequel), to the middle-of-the-road “I’m Number One” (which is a duet between Gervais and Constantine), to the execrable “Something So Right” (featuring Celine Dion, no less); a particular highlight is Modern Family’s Ty Burrell and Sam The Eagle performing the “Interrogation Song” (which is exactly as it sounds), and Tina Fey’s showstopping (not really) Broadway number, “The Big House”. In all, Muppets Most Wanted doesn’t exactly break new ground for Muppety musical madness, but it gets the job done and has you tapping your foot from time to time.
As a film fan, what I had most fun with was the star spotting: the film is littered with celebrity cameos, from Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett (as themselves early in the film) to Salma Hayek (in a sketch with Gonzo), Jemaine Clement (as one of the ringleaders of the gulag’s inmates) to Ray Liotta, Tom Hiddleston (truly a blink-and-miss-it appearance), Stanley Tucci (as a gulag guard who doesn’t shoot Kermit) and Christoph Waltz (doing a dance with Sweetums) all making an appearance – and that’s just a mere few of the dozens who make a show here. The great thing about Muppet movies is that even the most powerful Hollywood A-lister can’t possibly resist making a total ass of themselves in the name of Muppetainment.
Look, Muppets Most Wanted isn’t the cleverest story getting about, and the film isn’t totally without a few missteps in the humor department (the constant reference by Gonzo to an “indoors running of the bulls” dries up faster than Paris Hilton’s film career), but the films moves at such a clip that the jokes which don’t work are quickly bundled aside by yet another rib-tickler or sight gag hitting the screen flat-out. For sheer momentum this film is hard to beat; honestly, even second-rate Muppets are better than most comedy films, and Muppets Most Wanted isn’t a second-rate Muppet movie. Kids will love it, kids-at-heart will enjoy seeing Kermit and Co doing their thing again (a tip of the hat to fans regarding Rizzo’s exclusion from the 2011 film was a particular gut-buster for me!), and I suspect this film will soon become a firm family favorite. Hardly flawless, but overcome by sheer exuberance, Muppets Most Wanted is a film you really should check out.
© 2014, Rodney Twelftree. All rights reserved.