7 April 2014

They've Ordered A Sequel



In some respects The Muppets are a greater force in this world than God is. Neither seem particularly realistic and in both cases appear to have zero intention of convincing us otherwise. Do I believe that there is a magical sky-man that loves us unconditionally just so long as we don't do something as evil as doubt his existence? Or swap body juice with a person of matching genitals? Not really. Do I believe in the consciousness of an old felt frog with ping-pong ball eyes and a fetish for pigs? Not really... I mean there are moments where I can lose myself to it but for the most part I can never forget that below the frame Kermit is being manipulated by a hidden puppeteer who’s elbow deep in frog anus. Both God and The Muppets were invented by humanity to help provide both comfort and tell good stories, but at least in the case of The Muppets we're never actually meant to believe it. In fact, the very appeal of The Muppets seems to be in their acknowledgement of their own shittiness. If you watch the old show, they break the fourth wall to insult themselves almost as often as the Bible contradicts itself or incites some sort of hate. If you know of two blokes that happen to love each other then God wants you to take them outside and ensure that they're stoned. For a fucking amazing half hour I recommend that you watch an episode of The Muppets under a similar influence.

The previous Muppet film was basically a reboot for a gang of characters that were no longer relevant in our more cynical world. However, by the end of it, I was feeling nostalgic for a property that I'd previously had almost nothing to do with. When Kermit started to go through his bad times, my heart felt like it was under the same amount of pressure as a fat person must be in the 'Museum Of Cheese And Jogging'. As a response to that film, I went back to the old series and watched some of the classic episodes which I was really enjoying until I eventually reached the one featuring Roger Moore. As anybody who exists within talking distance of me will know, I'm a huge James Bond fan with Moore being a particular hero. In fact, as I type this now, I can see his autobiography on the table just staring at me and screaming for me to pick it up... Actually, give me one second and I'll see if he mentions his guest appearance on The Muppet Show...
Hah- having checked, I can confirm that he actually does. On page 233 he describes the experience as being, “One of the highlights of my career”. Wow, well for a man who did The Spy Who Loved Me, that is high praise indeed! Having said that though, he does then ruin the sentiment by admitting to having had sex with Miss Piggy and then telling the joke, “What's green and smells of pork? Kermit's finger”. Oh Roger...

The Russians are not known for their suspicious behaviour..
Anyway... so I loved the previous film, the old show and Roger Moore... who loves the show too. I was therefore very excited to see what they had in store for the sequel which I finally managed to get around to seeing the other day. Muppets: Most Wanted begins about one second after the last one ended as Kermit and his friends have to decide what to do next. Because we're all ultimately a wild, slathering pack of capitalist pig-dogs, the gang get a whiff of the yankee dollar and so decide to boost their income and fame by organising a world tour. Sadly for them though, the man organising this tour has other ideas, instead deciding to use it as an opportunity to travel the world and steal from a shit load of buildings and frame them in the process. That man in question is played by Ricky Gervais who seems born to play the role of a short, fat man from Reading whose partner in crime here is a short green frog named Constantine. Constantine has a dodgy Russian accent and a mole on his face but other than that is the spitting image of Kermit... As a result, the two obviously swap places, with Kermit in prison for Constantine's crimes and Constantine in charge of The Muppets who are, of course, all oblivious to the mix up. With friends like that, who needs cunts! Also, it's probably unfair of me to slag off Constantine's accent as realistically, it is better than some actual Russian actors... Gerard Depardieu, for example.

So what is there to like about Muppets: Most Wanted? Well, I'd say almost everything as I fucking loved it! I think I laughed more during this one film than I've laughed throughout the entirety of somebody like Eddie Murphy's career... Although to be fair I did chuckle at the unintentional honesty of Norbit's tagline, “have you ever made a really big mistake?” The point is that this film is really funny! I hate it when people say that and then tell you all the best jokes... But for me the highlights were the reveal of who Danny Trejo is actually playing and also the image of a smug little Muppet that's full on degrading Gervais by dancing on his fucking head. After seeing the film, me and my chums all differed on what we thought the best scene was as we chuckled our way to the car park during a post-film chitty-chat. It's also worth noting that, despite I guess being a kids film, we all still loved it despite each of us making steady progress on the grim race away from our childhood and towards our graves. I'm the youngest of the group and even for me it's been a good fifteen years since my first pube arrived to warn me about the imminent arrival of my aging and consequentially cynical, adult mind. 

I still loved this film though and had I actually been its target audience I'm sure I'd have liked it even more... or would I? I don't know any children because I think they're over-rated as a concept and so I can't ask any younglings what they actually thought. I mean, I guess they'd like it because kids are basically stupid and so enjoy anything with bright colours and cute monsters that look like the children of nuclear warfare. However, I don't think this film does specifically have them in mind as its target audience. Just look at the cameos for example! Find me one kid who is going to be excited about the appearance of Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta, Frank Langella or Toby Jones? Admittedly, that would be a fucking cool kid that felt joy when it sees the star of Goodfellas or Berberian Sound Studio but until I find a womb capable of growing my own little bastard I just doubt one exists.  Still, I loved the film with the cameos here being a huge improvement over those of the first. In fact, one of my biggest let downs about the last movie was that I'd heard Gervais was going to show up which he sadly never did, having had his scene cut out. I'm sure some people won't have been as sad about that as me because Gervais seems to be one of those comedians that splits people down the middle. Some people love him because he's hilarious, others hate him because they're idiots. My favourite show of all time is The Office in which his performance as David Brent is one of the most hilarious and touching things that I've ever seen. With his villainous role here, I feel that the mistakes of the previous have well and truly been corrected. This film aims to entertain children but I think it's more concerned about appealing to the one living dormant inside most adults than it is any that are actually alive.

Obviously Muppets Most Wanted isn't perfect but it was something that I really enjoyed. After the triumphant return of the last movie, this simply just feels like the natural progression of where things could go and in many ways is just another Muppet caper film... but is that really so bad? It's nothing too special but still great fun if you like the idea of seeing the kind of bonkers craziness that's only usually reserved for a confused schizophrenic before going on a killing spree. The film opens with a song about how sequels are never as good as the first which isn't strictly true but probably is here. Of all the things that I preferred about this one it really lacked the sadness, melancholy and nostalgia of the first which was what I loved most about it. This film is all about joyful silliness whereas there was at least a few moments in the previous film where it looked like Kermit might be about to book himself on a one way trip to France... which is a euphemism I've just invented for froggy suicide. I don't know why but I do enjoy my children's films to have an undercurrent of depression about them.

Should I take the pills or just kill everyone...?
So yeah... that's that really. I don't know what else to say about the film so I'll round this off by saying that I stand by my opening paragraph about preferring The Muppets to God. They're less preachy and thanks to the genius of Bret Mackenzie, have a much better soundtrack than the Bible ever could. I loved Flight of the Conchords but have only seen them once when I watched them all both blitzed and during a full blown outbreak of the munchies. Colours, comedy and music are pretty much what I look for when under the influence with Conchords and Muppets fulfilling both criterias perfectly. Sadly though as a result, I barely actually remember anything about Conchords except that I loved it and the music was amazing. I think Mackenzie's style must be squatting somewhere in my subconscious though because for me, perhaps it's his tunes that really elevate these films to the heights that they are. If you can bring yourself to stay alive for just a few more hours then I really recommend you go and check Muppets: Most Wanted out because, let's face it, in this Godless and meaningless universe... what the fuck else is there to do?

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