And so the Muppets return again after the 2012 reboot that brought Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie et al back into the public consciousness; this time around, and with their reintroduction out of the way, we’re able to dive right in to a great globetrotting Muppet caper.
After being convinced to go on a world tour after the success of the first movie – the first of many delightful meta moments in the film – by new manager Dominic Badguy (pronounced Bad-Jee, played by Ricky Gervais), Kermit finds himself being replaced by an identical looking evil frog, Constantine, who has just escaped from a Russian gulag and is stealing various items across Europe to reach his ultimate goal of pinching the crown jewels.
A film like this basically boils down to whether or not you find it funny, and for most of the time the film succeeds; whether it’s doing out and out slapstick, clever visual puns or slightly more adult jokes for the benefit of those in the crowd over the age of ten, the gag rate in the film is unrelenting. It’s just a shame not all of them are funny. Because for every joke that hits there is another one that falls utterly flat, and more often than not it’s the human cast (most notably Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell) that are to blame. That’s not to say they aren’t talented comedy performers because they absolutely are, it’s just that in a film with Muppets the writing has to hit the right tone, and while Burrell nails it – his scenes with Sam the Eagle are among the best in the film – Gervais (playing against type as a smug self-satisfied so and so) plays it too straight and Fey too far.
In fact the whole sub plot in the gulag with Fey as the warden is painfully laugh free, and stuffed with cameos that make no sense (“Hey kids, it’s Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo. You know them, right???”) with a song and dance number that’s as dreadfully unfunny as it is hard to decipher. What the film really lacks is an enjoyable human lead; namely Jason Segel who just got how a human character should share screentime with the Muppets and his relationship with an equally game Amy Adams was the beating heart of the last film, something that is sorely lacking here.
Thank goodness then for the furry stars who can always be relied on to at least generate a hearty chuckle or two, not least Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal. The standout though for me was Constantine who, with his Borat-esque Russian accent, never failed to make me laugh, especially when trying out Kermit’s catchphrases. Sadly Walter, the star of the last movie gets oddly sidelined here (although they get another great meta gag out of it with Rizzo the Rat) when one assumes he would be the natural entry point into this sequel.
The opening musical number “We’re Doing A Sequel” spells it out for us in the first five minutes:
We’re doing a sequel
That’s what we do in Hollywood
And everybody knows
The sequel’s never quite as good
NOTE: There’s a wonderful Monsters University short before the main feature that is just brilliant. Make sure you get in early. You don’t want to miss it.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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