Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

Lowdown: Kermit the frog is replaced by an evil criminal during a tour of Europe.
Review:
Two years ago we had a Muppets revival with The Muppets hitting the big screen, a cute but overall meh grade film. And now it is time for our Muppets to suffer the wrath of the sequel!
When contemplating a sequel, the moviemakers need to decide what to keep and what to change. In the case of Muppets Most Wanted, the path they chose is very clear: keep the formula as it is, as in have tons of cameos mixed with Muppets performances. The change? As the movie tells us in its very beginning, the chosen theme that provides the excuse for this movie is the Muppets touring Europe. Problem is, they get the idea from the movie's bad guy, their new agent - Dominic (Ricky Gervais).
Dominic's plot is simple: replace Kermit with an evil but incredibly similar looking frog criminal; tour Europe with this villain, under the cover of the Muppets' shows; and rob stuff while the Muppets are performing. As for Kermit? Send him to the Siberian jail his lookalike villain came from, where well disciplined guards will keep him locked. Guards headed by Nadia (Tina Fey).
When the robberies start, Europe's Interpol sends its detective (Modern Family's Ty Burrell) to investigate, while the USA sends CIA agent/Muppet Sam the Eagle. From then on, chaos ensues.
I have to say: even though this is a sequel, I liked Muppets Most Wanted much more than I did The Muppets. You may argue it is less original, but I will argue neither is that original in the first place; the real original is the TV show from decades past. The reason for this movie's superiority, if you ask me, is that this time around we are not focused on a would be Muppet we've never seen before; this time around it's all about either the Muppets we love, one of the key [excellent] human characters, or the cameos. All three categories work to create a film that may start slow but certainly picks up the pace at its second half. I'll put it this way: this is certainly my all time favourite Muppet movie (disclaimer: unlike the original TV show, none of the Muppet movies were ever stellar hits).
Sort of a related note:
One thing I would like to comment on is the ongoing thread of jokes on the differences between Europe and the USA, as provided by the collision between our Interpol and CIA detectives. The odd thing about it is that many of the jokes are meant to degrade Europe, but actually hit back at the USA.
First there is this whole thing we're supposed to take for granted, where the CIA agent has equal jurisdiction in Europe as the European detective. Imagine how Americans would react if European police people start policing them at home?
Next there is a joke about Europeans drinking their espresso out of tiny cups, while Americans drink jugs of coffee. Me, I love my espresso and I cannot fathom how Americans like the tasteless coffee labeled jerrycans that they get at their Starbucks. Then we have Americans mocking Europeans for taking weeks of paid leave during peak summer - sorry, are you jealous? I didn't realise Americans love working that much.
And last, but not least, I will note the joke on badly made European cars: last I recall, things are actually the other way around. It's the American cars that are badly made, and it's the European cars that everyone covets. BMW? Porsche? Ferrari, anyone? I never heard anyone outside the USA say something like "oh, how I want that Oldsmobile".
I guess this running theme says something about how Americans see themselves and how they see the world. The problem is that neither of the two are particularly encouraging.
Overall: A fine-fun effort, which I probably enjoyed more than the 3 crabs out of 5 I'm giving it.

No comments: