The Muppets are together again…again! If that alone doesn’t float your boat, then check your pulse and test your funny bone for its ticklishness.
If 2011’s The Muppets was all about returning our favourite felt friends from the fringes, then Muppets Most Wanted is just getting back to business. When the unlikely team of Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel spun their tale of the dysfunctional family reforming, the familiar plotting worked because it was a tribute to all things Muppetational. In a similar fashion, this next chapter in the Muppet saga harks back to their first theatrical sequel, The Great Muppet Caper (1981). Logic has no place here, and nor should it, for the Muppets are hitting the road again, and the road is left entirely defenceless.
Muppets Most Wanted wastes no time in reminding us of the meta awareness the series has always had, opening with a brilliant gag that takes place the moment the cameras stop rolling on the last picture. After a song about the direction of a sequel, which includes a terrific sight-gag from The Seventh Seal and the Swedish Chef (!), the gang is approached by the innocently named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) who encourages them to begin a world tour. It just so happens that all of their venues are right next to places that he and recently escaped “Number One” criminal mastermind Constantine (who looks uncannily like Kermit) want to rob. With Kermit mistakenly sent to a Siberian gulag, the Muppets carry on, with French Interpol cop Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and the CIA’s Sam the Eagle hot on the trail of the crooks.
While this sequel may be missing some of the sheer nostalgic force of the last entry, it is no less fun and irreverent, and no cows are left sacred, including their own films. Indeed, Muppets Most Wanted is a rare beast that directly answers the handful of critics of the previous movie, before carrying on with a collection of set-pieces and more songs by the Academy Award winning Bret McKenzie. (This time, the other half of the Flight of the Concords, Jermaine Clement, also appears as a prisoner). The tunes may not be as instantly joyful as “Life’s A Happy Song” or “Man or Muppet”, but McKenzie’s influence is still strong on the catchy-as-hell “I’ll Get You What You Want”, all the more hilarious being sung in the faux-Kermit’s strong Russian accent that never ceases to raise a chuckle. Likewise, Tina Fey (as a Russian prison guard) proves a triple-threat with the 80s-inspired “The Big House”.
In fine Muppet tradition, it’s wall-to-wall cameos from big stars, Disney Channel kids and random celebrities who couldn’t say no to the Muppets. It doesn’t matter if you can’t catch them all, because like the gags, they come at such a rapid-fire pace that if they don’t stick, then you’re already onto the next one. Fully recreating an episode of The Muppet Show in one scene, drawing on every caper/spy franchise in the next, Muppets Most Wanted doesn’t try to hide its influences, or the well-worn nature of the genre, but will have you wondering if all heist films were always this much fun.
Muppets Most Wanted is released in Australia on 10 April 2014, and in the US on 21 March 2014, from Disney.