Movie Guy: 'Muppets' shine again

I am always happy to hear that the Muppets have a new movie opening up in theaters. Even if the film isn't the greatest, the Muppets always provide so much silly fun and good-hearted adventure that it's impossible not to get swept up in by their crazy puppet antics.

That's the case with "Muppets Most Wanted," a crime-caper of a movie that doesn't quite live up to the Oscar-winning standards set by the last Muppet movie, but will still keep audiences of all ages well entertained.

This movie picks up right after the last film, with Kermit the Frog hoping to keep the group together for a world tour. Ricky Gervais plays Dominic Badguy, the man who will manage the tour. If you couldn't tell by his name, he turns out to be a bad guy.

Badguy has teamed up with Constantine, a notorious criminal who has escaped from a Russian gulag and just happens to look exactly like Kermit, save for a tale-tell mole on his lip. He also speaks with a caricatured Russian accent, which none of the Muppets seem to notice. Constantine pretends to be Kermit while the real Kermit is sent to prison back in Russia while the Muppets head off on tour.

It's a nice set up for plenty of globe-hopping fun, particularly when Constantine allows the Muppets to stage their wildest dreams. They decide to stage a running of the bulls and then lament when things get out of hand. Miss Piggy scores a bigger coup, convincing Kermit, who is really Constantine, to finally agree to get married.

As fun as all of this is, the humans also get plenty of opportunities to shine. Gervais makes a swell bad guy, and it's obvious that he's having a lot of fun working with his felt co-stars. Ty Burrell is also very funny as an extremely French policeman, and Tina Fey gets a lot of laughs playing the Russian prison mistress who starts to fall in love with her prisoner, Kermit the Frog.

I particularly enjoyed these prison moments, where Kermit is put in charge of producing the gulag's talent show, using a motley assortment of hardened criminals, as portrayed by Jermaine Clement, Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo-not your usual song and dance group.

It's all quite anarchic, filled with silly pratfalls, lots of bad puns and plenty of cultural references that will give mom and dad a chuckle or two. There is also a lot of music this time around, something that I quite enjoyed, even while thinking that a few of the numbers should have been cut. In fact, the entire movie runs a little long, given the tiny bladders of the Muppet's core audience, but it's hard to fault a film to giving you too much silly goodness.

"Muppets Most Wanted" may not be quite as good as the last movie, but it's still a great movie for the whole family. This is a movie, "Most Wanted" indeed.

Three Stars ***