Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2014. Walt Disney Pictures, Mandeville Films, Babieka, Cinema Vehicle Services, The Muppets Studio. Screenplay by James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller, based on characters created by Jim Henson. Cinematography by Don Burgess. Produced by David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman. Music by Christophe Beck. Production Design by Eve Stewart. Costume Design by Rahel Afiley. Film Editing by James Thomas.
The last film put the loveably fuzzy creatures, originally created from the fertile imagination of Jim Henson, back on top of show biz after years of obscurity, so why not indulge in a sequel! This time the laughs are plentiful and the nostalgia downplayed as Kermit is thrown into the Siberian Gulag and is replaced by a criminal mastermind frog who bears a strong resemblance to him except for a prominent mole on his face. Green concealer takes care of the evil Constantine’s disguise, but he has to work hard (and it’s hilarious) at convincing the gang that he is the affable but perpetually frustrated troupe leader, taking them on a world tour whose venues are conveniently located right next to museums housing priceless treasures. Constantine and the subtly named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) are using the Muppets as foils to gain clues that will take them to a centuries-old locket that is key to stealing the crown jewels in the Tower of London (oh that old trope). Meanwhile, Kermit whiles away his months in the Gulag by leading the prisoners in their annual talent show under the supervision of an unwisely underused Tina Fey. Celebrity cameos abound and there’s lots of face-palm-worthy schtick, but there’s far more meanness and violence than is usually featured in Muppet-based entertainment: it’s as if in firing the original writing team the studio decided that the hippy-dippy flower children of yesteryear aren’t tough enough for today’s kids. That sour flavor, along with an unimaginative narrative, hit a shallow note (even for a Muppet movie) because the characters talk about their themes (friendship, loyalty) without ever actually proving them (it’s resolved without much consideration); on the plus side Bret McKenzie has written a far better collection of songs than were featured in the last one.