After the success of The Muppets’ return to the big screen a couple of years ago, the furry gang returned this year with a gigantic cast and another romp, this time with a World Tour, amidst a heist storyline. Directed by James Bobin, who also directed the 2011 film, this sees writer Nicholas Stoller swap co-writers, from 2011’s Jason Segal, to Bobin himself, keeping plenty of the self-aware humour and nostalgic fun that made the previous movie so well received.
Kermit the Frog and his Muppet pals are happy after their successful return to the limelight and are approached by Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), a seemingly shady guy who offers to be the troupe’s manager and take them on a World Tour. With initial reluctance, especially from Kermy himself, they agree and take Badguy on board as their manager. We are then introduced to Constantine, a double of Kermit (but for an easily-concealable mole on his face) who breaks out of a Siberian prison and is labelled as “The World’s Most Wanted Criminal”. With a dastardly plan, along with his second-in-command, Badguy, to steal the crown jewels from The Tower of London, Constantine acts (badly) as Kermit, while the real Kermit is framed and sent to the Siberian prison, being thought of as the escaped criminal who is now infiltrating The Muppets with the help of the sleazy Badguy (who is Constantine’s “number 2”, in case I didn’t mention that). Kermit has to find a way to escape the prison, run by Nadya (Tina Fey), while dealing with the numerous prisoners. The Muppets find that their tour, meanwhile, is taking-off and even though the new Kermit is acting and sounding different to the real one, they don’t seem to notice because they are being given things that they want. With crimes being committed by Constantine and Badguy, across the globe, Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and Sam the Eagle investigate the goings on.
Now, it’s a bit weird to critically review a Muppets movie, it feels a bit awkward, but I’ll do my best. I had a lot of fun with the 2011 film, and as a fan of the franchise (Animal being my favourite of the gang) I was happy to see it thrust back into the mainstream consciousness with a funny, well-written and enjoyable movie. Returning here, the writing still has plenty of that knowing-nod humour about it, and there is plenty to make Muppet fans, old and new, chuckle, but it is missing some of the charm that made the 2011 film as good as it was. This time, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell are the lead human-actors on board. Now, Burrell throws himself into his silly detective character with both feet and looks to be having a lot of fun, which makes him fun to watch. Fey, also does this, and is enjoyable as the prison officer. Gervais though, well, he dragged the film down for me. There must be a time, surely, where Gervais stops playing himself and David Brent and tries to do something different, because I am tired of seeing the same one-trick-pony routine wheeled out everytime he is cast in something, be it on television or in film. His snarky, sarcastic and self-obsessed attitude is passé and I find him both grating and difficult to watch nowadays. He also seemed, to me at least, like he was a bit embarrassed here, like he was better than the material he was given, and that shouldn’t have been visible, even if it had any truth to it in his mind. Regardless of Gervais’ poor performance (in which he even does the over-done and over-used “Brent-dance” at one point), there is still plenty to enjoy here, and maybe fans of Ricky will forgive him.
The Muppets themselves were a blast. I mean, they’re The Muppets, afterall. Kermit delivers a terrific performance, showing fear and desperation in his eyes that only a frog of his experience could manage. Walter, the new-Muppet who debuted in the 2011 film, returns here and shows a loyalty to his friends, and to Kermit, which is heartwarming, for sure. It is Animal, and Miss Piggy, though, who really stretch themselves and show a vast ability to grasp the viewer with their layered and beautiful performances, filled with passion and exquisite energy. Animal, apparently, did his own stunts here too, which is pretty amazing, and Piggy, singing her own parts and revealing a side to her acting skills seldom seen, stole many a-scene. Just brilliant work from our furry friends, yet again.
It isn’t as funny as the previous film, as I’ve said, but it made me laugh out loud, and it is fun to pick out the big list of celebrity names who appear, at random times, on screen. From Danny Trejo, Lady Gaga, Ray Liotta and Tom Hiddleston to James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Chloe Grace Moretz and Usher, among dozens of others, there are plenty of big names from music, film and television here that will give people a giggle or three. The music is also fun, and there are many tap-your-foot tunes that The Muppets have always been known for. Overall, it’s a very entertaining family film that offers enough nostalgia for adult-fans to enjoy too. A cute movie, with flaws that drag it down a bit, it isn’t going to go on any timeless film lists, but it provides an hour and a half of easy-going amusement, and sometimes that is enough.