On Sunday afternoon I ventured off to see the latest Muppet film: Muppets Most Wanted. I grew up on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and will tell anyone who’ll listen that I feel Kermit is my spirit animal. I loved the last Muppet film, released in 2011 and so was eagerly anticipating this latest instalment.
The film opens at the close of the last film, with the Muppets deciding what path to take next now that they are all reunited. Enter Dominic Badguy (“it’s pronounced badgie”), a tour manager played by Ricky Gervais, who suggests they embark on a grand world tour. Kermit has misgivings, but the rest of the Muppets are convinced following Dominic’s promise to let them do what they want. It soon turns out however, that Dominic has a nefarious (any excuse to use that word) reason behind working with the Muppets. He is in cahoots (any excuse to use that word) with Constantine, the recently escaped, most wanted criminal in the world, who happens to look exactly like Kermit; except for one mole on the side of his face. Constantine and Dominic conspire to make Kermit look like Constantine by gluing a mole on his face, have him arrested and for Constantine to take his place. Constantine and Dominic will then use the Muppets as cover and patsies for their most audacious crime yet – stealing the crown jewels from the Tower of London. Meanwhile, poor Kermit is stuck in a Siberian gulag, with some all singing, all dancing inmates and a sassy prison guard, who falls in love with Kermit (played by Tina Fey). Will Kermit manage to escape, stop Constantine and save his friends?
To get this out of the way straight off: no, I didn’t think this was as good as the last film – not even close, in fact. BUT it was nonetheless enjoyable, silly, sweet and funny, so you’re still onto a winner regardless. And the film-makers themselves acknowledge in the opening number the difficulty involved in replicating success through sequels.
All the hallmarks of the Muppets are there: everyone relying on Kermit, Miss Piggy bombarding Kermit with affection and making everything about herself (natch), hair brained schemes that clearly won’t work and weird performances in each live show they perform (Gonzo’s repeated insistence on an indoor running of the bulls and Miss Piggy’s desire to perform an increasing number of Celine Dion songs were favourites). I liked the location suitable cameos throughout: Christoph Waltz appeared in the Muppet show in Berlin, Salma Hayek in Madrid (although Salma Hayek isn’t actually from Spain…) and Saoirse Ronan in Dublin. The cameos indeed, were numerous and allowed me to play my favourite game….that’s right: Spot the Actor! In addition to the three mentioned above, I spotted: Miranda Richardson, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hollander, Frank Langella, Tom Hiddleston, Jermaine Clement, Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta, Chloe Grace Moretz, Celine Dion, Mackenzie Crook, Sean ‘Puff Daddy/ P Diddy / Diddy /take your pick’ Combs, Josh Groban, Rob Corddry, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, James McAvoy, Stanley Tucci, Usher and Zach Galifianakis. Phew.
Appearing thoughout the film alongside the Muppets, I enjoyed the performances from Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell (an Interpol agent investigating the crimes and looking for Constantine). There’s something about appearing alongside the Muppets that allows you to be very free, I think and their performances were unrestrained, unashamedly silly and the singing was downright impressive. I particularly liked the persistent jokes about European working in relation to Burrell’s Interpol agent. The plot was a little fuzzy (or should I say Fozzie! Badum-chssssh) but gave way to some great little moments: watching Constantine try to mimic Kermit’s distinctive voice and speech was both creepy and brilliant. The idea that without Kermit the Muppets are crazed, self-indulgent performers who never know when to stop was great and I LOVED the practically perfect gulag inmate rendition of A Chorus Line. Beautiful.
Though it’s not as consistent as the last instalment of the Muppet adventures, it still more or less delivers on what people really want from a Muppet movie: witty, silly humour, undercut with a positive and heart-warming message. The message isn’t as clear as last time (I think it was about appreciating people and what you have…I think) but the family-friendly humour is still there and I reckon you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who didn’t find something to enjoy in this film.