Adventure Blu-ray Review

Warm and Fuzzy Blu-ray Review: Muppets Most Wanted

August 12, 2014Ben Mk


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Together again (again)...

He's lean, green and on the screen — no, he's not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, he's Kermit the Frog. And he's back in Muppets Most Wanted, co-writer/director James Bobin's followup to his 2011 box office hit, The Muppets, which reintroduced Jim Henson's beloved characters to a whole new generation of moviegoers. This time, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Rolph, Animal and the entire Muppet gang find themselves caught up in a globetrotting saga filled with crooks, capers, cops, celebrities, singing and dancing... lots of singing and dancing.

   

The Film Muppets Most Wanted doesn't just pick up after the end of The Muppets; it literally starts at the end of that film, with the Muppets about to disband when Walter (Jason Segel's Muppet brother) notices that the camera's still rolling. And as Statler and Waldorf point out, that can only mean one thing:"They've ordered a sequel!" Cue the high-spirited opening routine, 'We're Doing a Sequel' — the first of many crowd-pleasing musical numbers to come — which sees the likes of Gonzo, Fozzie and the Swedish Chef pitching their from-bad-to-worse ideas for its storyline. Conveniently, comedian Ricky Gervais happens to be present to interject with his suggestion: "How about the Muppets go on a world tour?"

Gervais plays Dominic ("it's pronounced Badgee") Badguy, who presents himself as the Muppets' smarmy, new tour manager, but he's really Number Two to the world's Number One criminal mastermind, Constantine, escape artist/martial artist/explosives expert extraordinaire, who also happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain famous frog named Kermit. After staging a daring escape from Siberia's Gulag 38B ("Russia's premiere state-funded hotel"), Constantine heads to Berlin, the first stop on the Muppets' world tour. There, he switches identities with Kermit and begins the next phase of his devious master plan to swipe the crown jewels from the Tower of London and frame the Muppets for the crime. But in order to do that, he'll need to steal a series of artifacts belonging to the infamous Colonel Blood (a 17th century rogue notorious for his own attempt to heist England's precious jewels), all of which are hidden away in select cities around the globe.

And that's where the Muppets' world tour comes into play, with Dominic booking the gang to play those key venues, using the show's on-stage antics to mask their real agenda and outwit the authorities, especially French Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), who's been reluctantly teamed with CIA agent Sam the Eagle to pursue Constantine, Dominic and the Muppets. Meanwhile, poor Kermit is thrown into the infamous Gulag 38B, where he comes under the scrutiny of prison guard, Nadya (Tina Fey), who convinces him to help its prisoners (led by the trio of Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo and "Prison King" Jemaine Clement) fine-tune their performances for the gulag's annual talent revue.

While all this Muppet madness may be too much for very young viewers, who might be hard-pressed to keep their attention focused for all of the film's nearly-two-hour runtime, the pic has ample charm to keep both the young and the young-at-heart enthralled. Part of that can be attributed to the never-ending conga line of Hollywood talent who show up: from James McAvoy and Tom Hiddleston to Christoph Waltz and Chloë Grace Moretz — the list goes on and on. But like any good Muppets film, the real star is the music.

Songwriter (and one-half of Flight of the Conchords) Bret McKenzie — who won an Oscar for his work on the previous Muppets film — has outdone himself this time, with a hilariously infectious line-up of songs that bests the previous film in every regard. Each of the three main human cast members also gets to belt it out in their own tune: Ricky Gervais bemoans how "life's gone to the dogs when your boss is a frog", in 'I'm Number One'; Tina Fey sings the praises of Gulag 38B, in 'The Big House'; and Ty Burrell probes the Muppets for the truth, in 'Interrogation Song'. There's even a collaboration between Miss Piggy and Céline Dion that has no right being as funny as it is; and McKenzie's Flight of the Conchords partner, Jemaine Clement, delivers a rousing rendition of 'Working in the Coal Mine'. And although the film's musical finale, 'Together Again', doesn't quite hit the high notes it should, the high-water mark set by Constantine's dance ballad, 'I'll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)', makes it easily forgivable.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Muppets Most Wanted sings and dances its way onto Blu-ray with a stunning A/V presentation — one that goes the distance from Hollywood to London (not to mention Berlin, Madrid and Dublin), showing off the sights and sounds of every stop on the Muppets' world tour without ever missing a beat. Aside from the intentionally drab and grimy greens, greys and browns of the Siberian gulag, the image is bright and colorful, impressing right off the bat with the glitzy white and gold tuxedos sported by the Muppets in the film's opening number, which pop spectacularly against the green, orange, purple and red of Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and Animal. At the same time, every bit of texture on the Muppet puppets (try saying that five times fast) — whether they be covered in fuzz, fur, felt or feathers — is as clear as day, thanks to the superb amount of fine detail present in the hi-def transfer. Even the film's darker scenes — such as those where Dominic and Constantine infiltrate the National Treasure Museum and the Museo Del Prado — are a sight to behold, thanks to inky blacks and strong shadow detail and contrast.

Audio-wise, Muppets Most Wanted features a DTS-HD HR 7.1 soundtrack (in contrast with The Muppets' DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix). The exact reason for the shift from uncompressed to compressed audio is unknown, but it's a safe bet that only extremely discerning audiophiles will be able to detect any perceptible difference in sound quality, as the HR track still bears a high bit rate. Dialog (which, for this movie, means jokes) comes across loud and clear, musical numbers are boisterous (without sounding muddled) and the more bombastic sound effects (such as the explosions set off by Constantine) are enveloping and impactful.

Special Features Disney's "Unnecessarily Extended" Blu-ray release includes DVD and iTunes digital copies and boasts three different versions of the film (the Theatrical Cut, the Unnecessarily Extended Cut and the Statler & Waldorf Cut). Of course, one should exercise caution whenever Statler and Waldorf are involved, and it's true in this case as well, as their version of the film is really a 2-minute gag in disguise. The Unnecessarily Extended Cut is, however, a bonafide extended cut that runs 12 minutes longer than the theatrical version, featuring minor scene extensions (such as new jokes and a tidbit or two of additional plot exposition) but (sadly) no new musical numbers.

The disc also offers up 16 minutes of special features, beginning with The Longer Longest Blooper Reel in Muppets History, a 10-minute gag reel consisting of outtakes from both the film and its promotional press tour. This is followed by Rizzo's Biggest Fan, a 3-minute short shot from the perspective of Rizzo the Rat's computer webcam, as he types out an email to director James Bobin pretending to be his own biggest fan. Finally, there's the "I'll Get You What You Want" Music Video Performed By Bret McKenzie, a 3-minute music video for the song that Constantine serenades Miss Piggy with in the film.


The Bottom Line Muppets Most Wanted takes everything that was great about the previous Muppets film and ratchets it up to eleven — giving audiences more A-list cameos, more comedic musical showmanship and more insane Muppet mayhem — making it one of the most enjoyable Muppet adventures yet. And though Disney's Blu-ray release is light on bonus features, its sparkling A/V presentation and the inclusion of multiple versions of the film make it hard to resist. Take it from Constantine, Muppets Most Wanted on Blu-ray does indeed give Muppets fans what they want.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  





* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on March 21st, 2014.




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