12 April 2014

Muppets Most Wanted Review

I love The Muppets. They are one of the few things I know of that has gotten funnier as I've grown older and I find that I can put on any of the Muppet films and have a brilliant time. As such, I've been eagerly anticipating this film ever since it was announced. Whilst it may not have the same level of heart as 2012's The Muppets, it more than makes up for it by being one of the funniest films that will be released this year.The plot, as helpfully laid out in the opening song, concerns the Muppets going on a world tour directly after the end of the last film managed by Ricky Gervais' Dominic Badguy. However, Badguy is actually a bad guy (shocking right) working for Constantine, the world's number 1 criminal who just so happens to look identical to Kermit, aside from having a mole on his face. During the tour, Constantine takes Kermit's place (asserting himself by allowing the Muppets to perform anything they want to) whilst Kermit is put into a Siberian gulag with Constantine and Badguy using the tour as cover to pull of a set of robberies whilst being hunted by the CIA and Interpol. The plot is incredibly ridiculous but it knows it is, hell they even make fun of how silly everything is throughout the film. However, underneath the surface of the plot we get some really great comedic moments, like how when Kermit is replaced the only one who can tell that it isn't Kermit is Animal. There are also a lot of moments that will go right over the heads of children, mainly the extended satire of EU bureaucracy with Ty Burrell as Jean Pierre Napolean, an Interpol agent, made all the more funny by pairing him with Sam the Eagle. This is also the most self aware the Muppets have been in a long time, from the opening song openly saying that this won't be as good as The Muppets to them pointing out how much development Walter got in The Muppets at the expense of more established characters like Robin and Rizzo whilst also trying to find a role for Walter, ultimately settling on him being the conscious of the group. Some of the Muppets do feel wasted though, aside from a brilliant joke in the opening song, The Swedish Chef is barely in the film, Gonzo, Bunsen and Beaker don't get much to do whilst Fozzie, Walter and Animal only play a big role at the end, but the film makes up for this with how brilliantly Kermit, Miss Piggy and Sam the Eagle are utilised. There are also a lot of great, deliberate, tributes to past Muppet films, from the plot being a spiritual successor to The Great Muppet Caper with Kermit is Miss Piggy's role to the ending scenes which are a really great tribute to The Muppets Take Manhattan. There is a problem in that some of the heart from the first film is missing, mainly through the absence of Jason Segel, but this is more than made up for with the humour with this easily being the funniest Muppet film that has been released.

The human cast do great work in their roles. Ricky Gervais pulls off the slimy, scheming bad guy really well, he's a surprisingly good singer and he did the one thing that I wanted to see in the film, the David Brent dance. Ty Burrell does his best Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther impression as Napoleon providing some great laughs, really selling the satire of EU bureaucracy and pairing him up with Sam the Eagle, and making Sam the Eagle the straight-man, was a stroke of genius. Tina Fey is a lot of fun as Nadya, the head of the gulag with an incredibly dodgy Russian accent (which is really funny), a lot of great laughs come from her and the point of the character knowing all the escape plans having seen every prison escape film is brilliant and she does a great job in the song she has. There are also a lot of cameos in the film. What I like is that a lot more of the cameos are based around the World Tour so there are more British and European actors such as Mackenzie Crook, Til Schweiger, Miranda Richardson, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hiddleston, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Christoph Waltz (doing, of course, a waltz), Russell Tovey and (my personal favourite actor) Toby Jones. Along with these there are cameos that are more familiar to American audiences like Danny Trejo, Stanley Tucci, Salma Hayek, Frank Langella, Zach Galifianakis, Ray Liotta, Rob Corddry, Lady Gaga, Josh Groban, Celine Dion, Usher (as an usher) and Chloe Grace Moretz (who also does an incredibly dodgy Russian accent). I laughed at virtually all the cameos and there were very few people I didn't recognise, unlike the last film where a good portion of the cameos were people I didn't recognise (although I don't think most Americans would recognise Mackenzie Crook, Russell Tovey, Toby Jones and Saoirse Ronan).

On a technical aspect, the direction is fast enough to keep up with all the jokes and there are a few moments of dodgy editing and greenscreen, but done deliberately, mainly in regards to Ricky Gervais' dancing. The music meanwhile continues to be a highlight. Bret McKenzie once again does a brilliant job with the music with there being a lot of really fun songs (mainly The Big House, I'll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu), We're Doing a Sequel (which is probably the most self aware the Muppets have ever been) and Interrogation Song), however whilst there aren't any songs as bad as Me Party there aren't any songs as excellent as Man or Muppet and Pictures in my Head from The Muppets.

Overall, Muppets Most Wanted was a blast to watch. Whilst it doesn't quite have the heart of the first film and a lot of the Muppets don't get utilised well, it more than makes up for it with a very likable cast, some brilliant cameos and being easily the funniest Muppet film that's been released in a while.

My Rating: 4.5/5

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