2011’s reboot of The Muppets was exactly what the furry troupe needed with Jason Segel sentimental yet warmly funny script and Brett Mckenzie (of Flight of the Conchords) trademark comedy song writing we were treated to a movie which stood up to the original series and in some aspects surpassed them. It was a box office smash and now being a Disney property a sequel was inevitability. This time round Segel’s no longer on board but with a replacement human lead in the form of Ricky Gervais and more original songs from Mckenzie this crime caper adventure still held promise.
Muppets Most Wanted begins exactly where The Muppets left off, it literally begins with the ‘The End’ firework that closed the first movie and we immediately found ourselves treated to our first musical number, ‘We’re Doing a Sequel’ and from here on the laughs come thick and fast. The plot sees Gervais’ Dominic Badguy assuming control of The Muppets and offering to take them on a world tour. Little do they know Badguy is not all kosher and is in fact in cahoots with the most wanted criminal in the world and Kermit doppelganger Constantine. Together they’ve hatched a plan to switch places with Kermit seeing the friendly frog sent to stay in Gulag while Badguy and Constantine find a way to the crown jewels framing The Muppets as they go. Hot on their trail though are Sam the American Eagle and French police office Jean Paul Napoleon (Ty Burrell) who provide us with perhaps the best laughs of the film most of which come from the ridiculous stereotypes exemplified by Burrell’s delightfully over-the-top Frnechman. Similar amounts of humour are to be found in the Gulag scenes as Kermit is entailed to teach inmates, who include the likes of Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta, how to perform a Broadway musical. Though the laughs don’t stop this film does suffer from a lack of heart, that sentimentality that Segel managed to inject into part one is missing here and by the films overlong climax this does become quite apparent and unfortunately for me the last ten to fifteen minutes don’t manage to keep the momentum going.
Overall though this is a sequel that on a comedy aspect is perhaps even better than the first part, however, its lack of heart means that as a while this isn’t quite a complete piece of work. Definitely worth a watch though for some light entertainment with good jokes and some great songs.
This weeks cinema trip was a rom-com that I was actually really excited for. Billed as the ‘sort-of sequel’ to Knocked Up, This is 40 is Judd Apatow’s fourth time behind the directors chair and it follows the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), who were secondary characters in Knocked Up as they turn 40 and the marital, financial and parenting problems they go through. It really doesn’t have much to do with Knocked Up at all but that doesn’t really matter. Apatow is probably the biggest producer in Hollywood today and all his previous directorial efforts have been excellent. His last outing was with Funny People a film which was largely disliked by the public but loved by critics (and me). It was a much more sombre affair than his first two but I think, an understated well told, heartfelt film. I was expecting more of the same with This is 40.
One thing most of the reviews I’ve read have picked up on is the lengthy running time of 136 minutes and the majority of reviews I’ve read have said it’s far too long. I beg to differ. I thought the plot trotted along at a very watchable pace with funny bits cropping up far more often than I was expecting. I didn’t even notice the time passing and would have been happy to spend another hour in the presence of these lovable, realistic characters. Another thing most of the reviews noted is how much this film feels like a sit com, again this is mostly seen as a bad thing by the critics. Again, I think they’re completely wrong, the film is sitcom material but I think the fact that it feels like watching a sitcom speaks to how well its made. You feel for the characters like you would in a sitcom but Apatow and the actors have managed to create that feeling in one feature, something that usually grows over a whole series in sitcoms. There’s not a moment of the film that wasn’t funny in my eyes, the occasional emotional punch would you set you up for more laughs to follow shortly and the cast deliver the incredibly witty script with the comedy chops we’ve come to know them for. But then there’s two kids played by Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow’s actual daughters who may bring the most laughs of them all.
I found This is 40 to be an insightful, funny look into the lives of an ageing married couple and family life in general. Not quite as slow as Funny People but not quite as fast-paced as Knocked Up it sits somewhere in between the two finding the perfect balance of laughs and heart, ignore the reviews this is one of the most enjoyable flicks you’ll watch this year.