‘Everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good,’ sing our furry friends during the opening number of a film with much to live up to after 2011’s terrific reboot, ‘The Muppets’. This self-deprecating gag proves to be self-fulfilling. The plot of ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ concerns a Muppet world tour run by new manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), during which Kermit is replaced by an evil doppleganger called Constantine. Meanwhile, Kermit is mistaken for Constantine and imprisoned in a Russian prison camp run by Nadya (Tina Fey). A pair of Interpol agents (Ty Burrell and muppet Sam The Eagle) investigate.
But, story aside, this is about the gags, songs and then more gags. On the upside, the jokes are great: the usual jolly mix of character humour, situation comedy, farce, satire and wordplay. From Miss Piggy’s vanity to Fozzie’s naivety, the Muppets are everything you’d expect, although they’re slightly elbowed out of the way by the real people, and with varying results. Fey has one too many musical numbers but a good chemistry with Kermit – if such a thing is possible – and it’s fun to see the likes of Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta prancing round a gulag. There are decent cameos from Tom Hiddleston and Usher.
Yet ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ misses the genial charm of ‘The Muppets’ stars Amy Adams and Jason Segel (the latter is also notably absent from the writing credits). Gervais is way too camera-aware and consistently out-acted by his furry co-stars. Still, it’s easy to forgive and forget when there’s another cracking one-liner in the wings – and Miss Piggy’s costume changes are a show in themselves.