Muppets Most Wanted (U)
Running time: 113 mins
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell and the voices of Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Peter Linz.
Director: James Bobin.
Released: March 28 (UK & Ireland)
CREATED almost 60 years ago by Jim Henson, Kermit The Frog and his hand-operated chums gained a new lease of life in 2011 with the release of the seventh feature film, snappily entitled The Muppets.
Combining an irreverent script, tongue-in-cheek cameos and uproarious song and dance numbers, James Bobin's film was a treat for fans of all ages.
Muppets Most Wanted is the inevitable sequel and harnesses some of the same charm and zany energy including original compositions by Bret McKenzie from Flight Of The Conchords, who garnered an Academy Award for Best Original Song for the first film.
The New Zealand-born comedian and musician delights with his pithy worksmithery including a rousing opening number featuring Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga that declares, "We're doing a sequel, the studio wants more/While they wait for Tom Hanks to do Toy Story 4!"
The ramshackle plot bounces along at breakneck speed, providing a hook for hare-brained set pieces replete with Celine Dion as Miss Piggy's Fairy Godmother.
The world's most deadly criminal, Constantine (voiced by Steve Whitmire), who bears an uncanny resemblance to Kermit (Whitmire again) except for a facial mole and strong eastern European accent, escapes from Gulag 38B in Siberia.
Commander Nadya (Tina Fey) and her men give chase and mistakenly apprehend Kermit, believing him to be the amphibian mastermind.
While Kermit languishes behind bars, Constantine poses as The Muppets' leader to orchestrate a series of daring robberies with the help of his second in command, Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais). French Interpol inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) is hot on their heels and hooves.
Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson), Gonzo (Dave Goelz), Fozzie Bear (Jacobson again) and the gang don't notice that their beloved green ringmaster has been replaced by an imposter.
They embark on a world tour that takes them from Berlin to Madrid, Dublin and London - "home of the Crown Jewels... and good manners".
Thankfully, Kermit has a daring plan to escape and expose the diabolical doppelganger.
Muppets Most Wanted doesn't quite scale the dizzy comedic heights of the first film but the sequel is peppered with belly laughs and droll in-jokes.
Thus when the newest member of the Muppet fold, Walter (Peter Linz), abandons the world tour, Rowlf is incredulous. "We just spent a whole movie watching him join The Muppets!" he laments.
Bobin doesn't tarry on holes in the narrative or flimsy sub-plots like Miss Piggy's desire to make an honest frog out of Kermit, and hopes we'll do the same with grins on our faces.
The sequel is preceded by a delightful computer-animated short, Party Central, which revisits Monsters University favourites Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) and the misfits from Oozma Kappa fraternity as they attempt to outwit the bully boys from Roar Omega Roar once more.