Muppets Most Wanted
Director: James Bobin
Voices of: Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel; Starring Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey
Muppets Most Wanted acknowledges the baggage it bears in a sequence at the beginning, which highlights how these characters created by Jim Henson and adopted by Disney have never really been out of business or out of sight. That they still carry a lot of weight is evident from the line of stars who appear in the film, some even to just hang at the edge of the frame.
This film by the same director as 2011’s The Muppets, and voiced by the same group who have been doing it for years falls between these two stools. Conscious it can’t be too aware of its place in Hollywood history, but not stepping very far away from it either, it struggles through a clunky plot that stretches from Siberia to Dublin, with a very vast desert thrown in, and loses breath long before it calls it a day. When it pauses, it is only to break into a song, some of them quite enjoyable.
The sequences in Siberia’s Gulag are the funniest, for the simple reason that Fey as its strict commander, Nadya, and its hardened criminals including Ray Liotta and, briefly, Tom Hiddleston, don’t have to try too hard to infuse humour in those dire circumstances.
Gervais — as the bad guy who has partnered with Constantine (Vogel) to replace Kermit (Whitmire) and to use the Muppets as a front, while they chart out an elaborate theft of the crown jewels of Britain — takes himself too seriously, and is far too menacing to have around those lovable characters. Vogel sketches out “the world’s most dangerous frog” better, particularly because of his insidious deviousness.
None of the other characters makes a mark, with Ms Piggy (Jacobson) cutting a particularly sorry figure given that marriage to a reluctant Kermit appears to be her sole agenda for this film.
Burrell is a French Interpol detective who smells something fishy in the break-ins happening in the wake of the Muppets, who are on a world tour. The film takes liberal potshots at Europe’s laid-back work culture, and Burrell doesn’t just tap into his inner Clouseau, he milks it to accented death.