MUPPETS MOST WANTED [2014]: in cinemas now

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Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,

USA

MUPPETS MOST WANTED

RUNNING TIME: 107 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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At a loss as to what to do, the Muppets agree to a world tour with Dominic Badguy as their manager. Meanwhile, Constantine, the world’s number one criminal and a complete dead ringer for Kermit, escapes from a Siberian Gulag [prison], before making contact with Dominic, who is actually Constantine’s subordinate. The Muppets arrive in Berlin to play a show, but Kermit becomes increasingly frustrated with the rest of the Muppets’ ludicrous requests for the show and Miss Piggy’s insistent hints at marriage, Whilst taking a stroll to calm down, he is ambushed by Constantine, who slaps a fake mole on Kermit’s right cheek, making him resemble Constantine. Kermit is arrested and taken to the Gulag in his place, while Constantine meets up with the rest of the Muppets, intending to use them as a cover for his for his heists….

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Brian Henson thinks that Muppets Most Wanted is an improvement on the last Muppet movie. Well, it’s one man’s opinion, but considering he was pretty much in charge during the decline of the Muppets and behind most of their worst outings, I wouldn’t take his word for it. I would love to tell you that the seeming commercial failure of this latest Muppet film is probably because of things like Ricky Gervais not really appealing to cinema-goers, or the bad will generated by that dreadful TV christmas special which was basically the Lady Gaga show, and that it’s yet another example of bad choosing by the paying public who would rather flock to rubbish movies. However, I just have to say that Muppets Most Wanted just isn’t that good, and a considerable notch down from the glorious The Muppets. This is coming from someone who pretty much ignored the Muppets until the 2011 film made him fall in love with them and their unique brand of intelligent stupidity that is a sheer gift to people of all ages.

Muppets Most Wanted is by no means a bad film, and you can’t help but like a sequel which opens with a song about movie sequels, but something clearly went a bit astray with it. Mixing the old but usually entertaining idea of two identical doubles who take each other’s place with elements of The Great Muppet Caper, easily one of their best pictures, should have resulted in something far better than what we get. After a few scenes quickly setting everything up, the film really stalls as it repetitively alternates between Kermit in the Soviet Gulag into which he been mistakenly placed and the Muppets touring around Europe while Constantine robs things next door. It’s not that the pace is too slow – actually the second half of the film moves reasonably fast and Muppet movies tend to be best when they adopt a leisurely pace anyway – it’s that just not enough is done with the situations. The good and amusing ideas, such as tough guys Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta singing and dancing as Gulag inmates, tend to be overused. Worse than that, the film has very few really laugh-out-loud moments. There is the odd nugget, like Kermit trying to escape jail and being foiled every time, but they are thin on the ground. There is much that is amusing, like police questionings done as a musical number, but very little that’s more than that. Ty Burrell’s scenes as Jean Pierre Napoleon, a French cop barely more capable than Inspector Clouseau, are notable, but the character’s two funniest bits were in the trailer. Meanwhile the Muppets, except for Kermit and Miss Piggy, tend to have little to do, though there is an extended part for those incredibly freaky-looking Muppet Babies!

It is weak writing more than anything else that lets this film down. I know I’m watching a very below-par Muppet film when Statler and Waldorf don’t say very much and what they do say falls short of being side-splittingly funny. It only occasionally exudes that Muppet warmth, though at least the greatest “will they, won’t they”? in history reaches some kind of conclusion. Ricky Gervais, seemingly an odd guy to star in a Muppet film, actually does well with a lower-key, less nasty but still smarmy variation of his usual persona, and the musical numbers throughout are great. They go through different musical styles while still having the feel of old Muppet songs, and are often staged in highly imaginative ways [though we’ve seen some of it before, like for instance Busby Berkeley-style water dancing]. Sadly it’s obvious that they have now began to use quite a bit of CGI. Allowing us to see Muppets walking and dancing takes much of the fun and childlike mystery out of it. Of course you would occasionally in the other films see a full Muppet, but it wouldn’t be a slick looking CGI thing that  just doesn’t look like the real character. I guess it had to happen occasionally, but what a shame!

James Bobin has at least made another good looking film and there are a huge amount of celebrity cameos to enjoy this time round, the odd one of which is great, but one almost feels that the filmmakers were more interested in them than the Muppets. Occasionally there are signs of what Muppets Most Wanted could have been, but it generally feels like the Muppets have been diluted and are on auto-pilot. The Muppets was widely liked, so they tried to make a sequel that would appeal to even more people, but they took out some of what makes the Muppets special and it has backfired. That joyous feeling, that immense charm, that clever satire, those touches of just plain random weirdness….this stuff can certainly be found in Muppets Most Wanted, but in very small doses. It’s quite an enjoyable family movie, hence why it still deserves the star rating I’ve given it, and it’s certainly better than The Muppets’ Wizard Of Oz, but it really could, and should, have been something quite special, following the great return to form of The Muppets. In the end, not at all a bad movie if taken on its own, but a very disappointing one.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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About Dr Lenera 1981 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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