Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted
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Director: James Bobin
Cert: G
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Tony Bennett
Running Time: 1 hr 52 mins

The last Muppets film really was sensational. It was more than that. It was also inspirational, celebrational and – this hardly needs to be said – Muppetational throughout. Jason Segal's script had the appealing shape of a classic Hollywood musical comedy: Singin' in the Rain with more frogs, pigs and chickens.

The sequel is slightly more ramshackle. If we're searching for a classic comparison, we might think of it as a variation on the chaotic Hope and Crosby pictures: The Road to Berlin, Madrid, Dublin and London. Why worry? When a film delivers so much unalloyed pleasure, we can live without structure.

Muppets Most Wanted begins immediately after the last one ends. Aware that the movie hasn't quite put the Muppets back on top, the gang elect to embark on a sequel. They even sing a song about it. "That's what we do in Hollywood/ And everyone knows the sequel's never quite as good," Kermit and Fozzie bellow.

The action revolves around a barmy scheme perpetrated by the sleazy Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais pronounces his character's name with soft "g") to steal some of the world's most valuable treasures.

Dominic offers to manage the ensemble, replaces Kermit with an evil lookalike named Constantine, and proceeds to book the Muppets into venues situated conveniently close to museums and art galleries. The real Kermit, meanwhile, is interned in a Russian gulag that seems unchanged since the fall of the Soviet system.

The Muppets’ appeal has always sprung from – among other sources – their talent for blending self-consciousness and old-fashioned music hall values. The latter is honoured by a series of excellent songs and the former by superb absurdist gags such as the gang’s ludicrous inability to notice Constantine’s conspicuously foreign accent and darkly villainous manners.

The film does run out of steam in a protracted denouement that asks us to care about the increasingly nonsensical plot. No matter. This is still the funniest film now in cinemas. And, unlike The Irish Times critic who is paid off in the film (really), we required no imbursement to deliver that superlative.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist