Frog's tale with old-school humour
DISNEY'S MUPPETS: MOST WANTED (PG)
107 minutes/Opens today
Picking up from the happy ending of The Muppets (2011), the gang have to figure out what to do next, now that they are reunited. Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) suggests that they go on tour, with him as their manager. His nefarious reason for doing so is soon revealed - criminal mastermind Constantine escapes from a gulag and switches place with his lookalike, Kermit the Frog. Dominic and Constantine have their eyes on the British crown jewels, as Interpol's Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and CIA agent Sam Eagle get on the case. Meanwhile, Kermit finds himself stuck in a Siberian prison with a zealous guard, Nadya (Tina Fey).
EXOTIC locales, more stars and a (slightly) bigger budget - it looks at first as though this flick, a crime caper which ricochets from Berlin to Madrid to London to Siberia, has been saddled with the ills of sequelitis.
Instead of Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper, comedians Ricky Gervais (from television's The Office), Tina Fey (of 30 Rock fame) and Ty Burrell (the lovable goofball patriarch from Modern Family) are the key non-Muppet actors. They are joined by the likes of Lady Gaga and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) making cameos.
But the entertaining mix of anarchic energy and endearing good-heartedness remains from the previous film.
There is humour here but generally not of the ironic, too-cool-for-school variety - well, except for a pointed reference in the opening musical number to the fact that sequels are never as good as the films that come before them.
Otherwise, it is old-school humour that makes you moan or smile, sometimes both.
Exhibit one: The villain here is named Badguy. Exhibit two: Burrell's moustachioed French inspector lives up to every cliche about laidback Europeans and their penchant for long lunches and holidays.
There are also the quick throwaway jokes squeezed into the frame. Slow news week: "Muppets dominate headlines" is a blink-and-you-will-miss-it faux newspaper headline.
What drives the story forward are tried-and-true devices such as mistaken identity and themes every true-blue Muppet fan knows about - such as the combustible love-hate relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
There are also the pleasures of watching Fey go gaga over Kermit and putting on an Eastern European accent, and the prison inmates delivering an enthusiastic version of the musical A Chorus Line's opening number.
Now, that is a production with touring potential.