Muppets Most Wanted inevitably misses the pent-up nostalgia which proved so appetizing in 2011’s Muppets re-engagement. That film, with the perky Amy Adams and deeply enthusiastic Jason Segal, was as much a celebration of Jim Henson’s long standing puppet creations as it was an irreverent story. It’s sequel is undoubtedly a touch tired.
Most Wanted farms its sequel jokes, bursting into immediate song to celebrate success and jab the audience with a few zingers about franchise exploitation. These critters, Kermit, Gonzo, Fonzie, and the whole crew, remain inherently aware of their satirical existence while still committing to their worldwide travels.
Occasional location shooting around the UK dress this feature with with precise characterization, the type of broad-based international stereotyping almost groan worthy, if brought to life here with a comfortable jest. Ty Berrell zings it as a French Interpol agent in a constant state of downtime, pairing with Sam the Eagle for an entertaining human/puppet twosome.
Some fan-based chiding is addressed by this script which is tightly locked onto the Muppets, and musical numbers (with variances of pop, showtunes, and dramatic villain pieces) surround the Muppet personalities rather than a slimmer human cast. Ricky Gervais is distinctively in the lead as Dominic Badguy (bad-gee; it’s French) who assigns the cast to travel the globe on tour. Insert a double presence of bad guy-ness with Russian Kermit-clone Constantine and the film slips into the mold of pleasurably thin caper.
Returning writing team of director James Bobbin and Nicolas Stoller lack a touch of their sharpness, certainly displaying a tinge of exhaustion as the movie limps forward in spots. Belly laughs are reduced to smirks and eye rolling puns are less likely to induce chuckles. Tireless cameos seem forced into place during gag lulls and tend to suffocate the story amidst an audience game of, “Spot Them All.”
In the end though, this is the Muppets, raucous and exuberant. No matter the framework, they fit. Lessons of appreciation and the importance of friendship are keen, with Gervais dryly carrying the central story with his British touch. Even if it feels run over by the idea truck rather driving it, Most Wanted is infectiously joyful in its care-free attitude.
Some questionable smoothing on the likes of Tina Fey is one of the few – and about only – complaints which can be shared regarding the digitally sourced presentation on this disc. Mirroring the first film almost identically (despite bringing in new cinematographer Don Burgess), fidelity on the puppets in close or in the mid-range is astonishing. Layers of cotton fibers are visible, and costumes are fantastic. Each stitch is visibly in place.
Most Wanted can also share in the beauty of location footage, even if some of those shots are barely outside of the routine. Exterior establishing views are covered in flawless, natural sharpness. Resolution is superior to most. From a Russian gulag composed of mostly visual effects to shots of France which are amongst the top tier on this format, the disc continues to be a giver.
One could stare at the black levels and find they lose a little bit of heft, but the actual impact on the end product is marginal. Saturation is packed in as the multi-hued Muppets carry their variety into the lens. From Animal’s fire red hair to Gonzo’s deep purple fur, no colors turn up missing for an extended time. Color correction seems minimally applied, and likely was used to bump primaries instead of artificially adding mood – as if a Muppets film would need such tinkering. Duh.
An easy summary is that Most Wanted matches 2011’s Muppets. The smoothing issue, (sometimes) dim black levels, and total success elsewhere is a replication. It’s almost too gorgeous to be pitted by minutiae. Reference level materials are inbound here (and noiseless), soured by negligible constraints.
Disney’s odd decision making has brought about a DTS-HD HR 7.1 mix, certainly an oddity for the format. Bitrates remain high, and any nuanced difference from standard DTS-HD (outside of a rather low overall volume requiring a boost from standard reference) are bound to be slim. However, making excuses for Disney seems rather inappropriate. They can defend their choices themselves. As it stands, Most Wanted has around 6GB to spare on its BD-50. Make of it what you will.
Ignoring the codec choice itself and simply listening reveals a track which is no doubt vibrant. Songs swell widely into the soundstage, without fidelity-based quirks. Lyrics are vivid with splendid instrumentals and assistance from the low-end.
This disc carries plenty of fun as well, including a stream of explosions which pack in energy. Sequences of mass action – a prison escape especially – create a resoundingly effective audio play space. Alarms blare and positionals capture the front-heavy action. Wind and ambiance flare up during an amusing rescue in dense weather. This design is not short of things to do.
Most Wanted’s major bonus is an extended cut which packs on additional pounds, stretching things to near two hours for 13 bonus minutes. You can also view the brief Statler & Waldorf cut which is best left to audience discovery.
Otherwise, this disc is awfully slim. A 10-minute blooper reel is stuffed with Ricky Gervais laughing on set, and a short called Rizzo’s Biggest Fan shows the creation of an email loaded with subtlety (or not). A funny music video extends a scene from the flick with Bret McKenzie and that’s it. We’re done.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.