“Everybody knows the sequel is never quite as good,” our favourite fuzzy friends admit in a catchy opening number, tackling the challenges of living up to the rejuvenating success of The Muppets with their usual self-reverential humour. They’re right of course, Muppets Most Wanted isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, but there’s still enough anarchic humour, old-fashioned pizazz and absurd accents to make it an enjoyable follow up.
The main plot riffs effectively on crime capers of the ‘60s, setting up Ricky Gervais as a master criminal using The Muppets international tour as a cover for his unscrupulous schemes. However, it is needlessly attenuated by a rote segment involving Kermit’s mistaken incarceration in a Serbian gulag in place of evil doppelganger Constantine.
Add to this Miss Piggy’s wedding preparations and a buddy-cop pairing of Sam The Eagle and Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Burrell) and it’s no wonder the plot quickly becomes unmanageable, helplessly careening from one half-baked plot point to another with all the momentum of a reversing locomotive.
Where The Muppets wrapped its story in affectionate nostalgia and had a uplifting story about Walter’s search for his true talent, MMW’s scattershot approach makes for a more conventional comedy that rifles off the gags thick and fast but forgets to make us care about the characters involved.
It seems this role was supposed to be filled by Kermit whining that he’s been forgotten by his friends and left to rot in a Russian prison but it never quite rings true, partly because this story isn’t given enough time to develop and partly because… well, he’s Kermit, he is The Muppets – how could he think he’s not wanted?
As always there are plenty of celebrity cameos to keep it all rattling along but these also become excessive with the sheer number of celebrity faces not only distracting but also diminishing the performances of the main (human) cast. It’s hard not to view Gervais, Burrell and Tina Fey’s roles as anything other than glorified cameos when they’re given such limited screen time.
Not that any of this is ruinous, the movie is never short of laughs and ends on an uplifting note with another catchy sing-along that, like all the other musical numbers in this sequel, is perfectly entertaining but which never quite hits the heights of Man or a Muppet.
And that’s MMW in a nutshell: close, but not quite. It’s ridiculous, chaotic, catchy and eventually uplifting – pretty much everything you could want in a Muppet movie. It’s just not quite as good as you want it to be.
Runtime: 107 Minutes Genre: Musical/Comedy Released: 28 March 2014
Director: James Bobin Writers: James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller
Cast: The Muppets, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey
Click here to watch the trailer for Muppets Most Wanted