Saturday, March 22, 2014

Gee, It's Good To Be Together Again

Year: 2014
Director: James Bobin
Cast: Rickey Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey
Run Time: 1 hour 52 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG

A quick word about the Monsters University tie-in short that opens the film - it is hilarious. Presumably more so than the entire film that spawned it. But that's neither here nor there. The Muppets are back!

Ever since their smash comeback in 2011's The Muppets (to which I gave a rave review that appeared on my original blog which has unfortunately vanished into the ether), The Muppets have had clout in the 21st century like never before and it was only a matter of time before the sequel hit. And while it's certainly not quite the sparkling gemstone that made its predecessor an instant classic, it really is a tremendous followup.

And let's face it, it's physically impossible for a Muppets film to be actively bad.

Sure, it doesn't quite tie together under a coherent theme. Sure, many of the Muppets (both old and new, and especially Walter) are given short shrift in favor of a new character, Constantine, the evil Kermit lookalike with an accent straight from Tommy Wiseau's Twelve Step Program to Speaking American. Sure, some of the meta gags make inter-film continuity endlessly confusing.

But this is children's entertainment! It's got great songs, laugh a minute gags, and plenty of Muppet mayhem. Sometimes it's hard to be a Grumpy Gus in the face of such delightfully clever and effervescent family entertainment.

The story goes like this - to capitalize on their newfound success, Kermit and the Muppets book  Dominic "It's Pronounced Bajy" Badguy (Rickey Gervais) to manage their European comeback tour. Little do they know that Dominic works for the world's number one criminal, Constantine the Frog, who makes short work of framing Kermit for his crimes and sending him to the Siberian Gulag while he tours with the Muppets as a front for a series of heists leading up to the theft of London's Crown Jewels.

Also featuring Ty Burrell as an Interpol Officer about half a millimeter away from actually being Inspector Clouseau and Tina Fey as a Russian prison warden, Muppets Most Wanted has a lot of fun with its multinational setting, politely poking fun at things like European vacation days and funny names for German towns without resorting to crude stereotypes (coughcoughDespicableMe2cough).

Also Tina Fey gets to sing a song in a Russian accent and it is 100% flawless.

As always the Muppets aren't afraid to sacrifice wit just because they're for children. My inner film major was tickled by an out-of-nowhere reference to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal and some of my favorite jokes veer dangerously close to existential horror, wringing peals of laughter from the incongruous presence of Kermit and pals in such situations. Trust me, it's hard to explain, but it totally works. 

Speaking of fun and incongruous, cameos include Tom Hiddleston, James McAvoy, and an anthropomorphic ARTPOP advertisement. The surprise celebrity appearances are always part of the fun of the Muppets films so I won't spoil anything more, but some of the best jokes come from them as they get to pop onscreen and play with Kermit and Co. for 20 seconds or so.

All in all, Muppets Most Wanted is an enchanting musical comedy that is enjoyable for every second of its run time. Even I, reigning champion of grousing about movie lengths, had no complaints about the nearly two hour run time because every moment maximizes its comedic potential. So maybe it's not The Muppets 2011. But it's Muppets Most Wanted and that's a fantastic thing to be.

TL;DR: Muppets Most Wanted is silly to the core and there's never a dull moment, although it's not quite up to snuff with the 2011 masterpiece.
Rating: 8/10
Should I Spend Money On This? Yes! It's March! What else is out? Treat yourself.
Word Count: 646
Reviews In This Series
The Muppet Movie (Frawley, 1979)
The Great Muppet Caper (Henson, 1981)
Muppet Treasure Island (Henson, 1996)
Muppets from Space (Hill, 1999)
The Muppets (Bobin, 2011)
Muppets Most Wanted (Bobin, 2014)

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