Having triumphantly resuscitated Kermit and co. in 2011 with the The Muppets, director James Bobin faces that Difficult Second Movie hurdle. Reassuringly for long-time Muppet fans, he and writer Nicholas Stoller have knocked up a globe-trotting jewel heist that’s firmly in the tradition of The Great Muppet Caper (1981).
Much more knowing in tone, and more busily plotted than Jason Segel and Stoller’s innocent and nostalgic 2011 take, it revels in the comedy cunning of Constantine: Kermit’s Russian doppelganger and the world’s most wanted criminal.
Celebrity cameos have always been a Muppet mainstay, but here they come in a veritable blizzard, ranging from snatched glimpses of Lady Gaga and Sean Combs, to smirking gulag-gang appearances from Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta and Tom Hiddleston. This glut of star-spotting sometimes makes the film resemble that other ’60s movie craze: the madcap chase film – top-heavy with ker-aazy cameos.
However, Gervais, the only star with a part big enough to sink his teeth into, is an unhurried delight in the film’s hectic whirl. And despite the breakneck pace, the movie manages to keep intact that all-important Muppety balance between adult pop-culture snickering and goofy child-pleasing pratfalls.