Director: James Bobin; Screenwriters: James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller; Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, The Muppets; Running time: 107 minutes; Certification: U
When The Muppets hit screens a couple of years ago, it came as an utter jolt of delight to everyone; long time fans and those just being initiated into the Muppet universe alike. Jason Segel’s film (let’s face it, it was his) set out to bring The Muppets back to the limelight – a goal it achieved with the utmost success. It was a Shakespearean soliloquy, a love letter to The Muppets. With brilliant songs and an excellent story, it was funny, charming, sweet, and even introduced an adorable new Muppet, Walter, to the eclectic bunch. Audiences took the film to their hearts in they way they did with previous entries (because it wasn’t, as Most Wanted’s fantastic opening number reminds us, the first one), which is as much as the makers could ever have hoped for. Put simply, there was huge expectation on this “sequel, that’s what they do in Hollywood, but everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good” to reach the same heights.
Undeniably there’s less heart and sentiment this time around, with the plot instead nestling down as a more straight forward crime caper, and the whole thing feels like less of an event, but where others have found this to be problematic, I found it completely joyous in its own way. Sure there’s less reverence but that’s okay when it’s making us laugh so much – and it really is funny, funny, funny. From Bret McKenzie’s catchy songs (which perhaps aren’t quite as good as the last film’s, but still excellent) to Constantine attempting to imitate Kermit’s voice (I am Kehrmeet), to the hilarious Ty Burrell and the host of celebrity cameos, there’s so much fun in here. From the opening sequence to the last, I just had a whopping smile on my face.
If there’s one piece of the puzzle missing, it’s Jason Segel. He played no small part in making the last film such a charming experience, and the lack of his warm, fuzzy, Muppet-like presence is certainly felt. The relationship he shared with Walter, who also gets a slightly sidelined role, equally so. Gervais does a decent job of filling in the leading human role, but it’s Burrell who steals the show completely with his Modern Family-inflected sense of physical comedy and awkward glancing. Yet aside from being Segelless, there’s really nothing to long for. Muppets Most Wanted is a joyfully hilarious caper that will please adults and children alike with songs, gags and evil frogs. This isn’t bringing the Muppets back to the limelight; it’s letting them bask in it.