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‘Muppets Most Wanted’: Frog goes across the pond, to funny effect

The pitchman (Ricky Gervais left) hawking tour Europe really is conning Gonzo Fozzie Kermit Miss Piggy gang “Muppets Most Wanted.”

The pitchman (Ricky Gervais, left) hawking a tour of Europe really is conning Gonzo, Fozzie, Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang in “Muppets Most Wanted.” | DISNEY ENTERPRISES INC.

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Dominic Ricky Gervais

Nadya Tina Fey

Jean Pierre Ty Burrell

Walt Disney Pictures presents a film directed by James Bobin and written by Bobin and Nicholas Stoller. Running time: 112 minutes. Rated PG (for some mild action). Opens Friday at local theaters.

Updated: April 22, 2014 6:09AM

OK, I’ll say it: While “Muppets” projects in recent years have been good, frequently funny and even charming, I miss Jim Henson’s brilliant creativity in most of what has been done with his iconic franchise since his untimely death.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the world of Muppetry should not continue, and with this latest movie, there is much to enjoy and like. The new globetrotting, caper-packed romp with Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the lovable team certainly is just as good as, and often an improvement on, the 2011 offering of “The Muppets” (and much, much better than the mostly disappointing “Muppets From Space” back in 1999).

Picking up literally where the last movie left off — thanks to stand-in actors’ backs reimagining the backs of Amy Adams and Jason Segel from the 2011 film — the Muppets now wonder what new adventure they should tackle.

While Kermit wisely advises his fellow Muppets to hone their performance skills for a new movie, they very unwisely fall for the pitch made by Dominic Badguy, played by the always hilarious Ricky Gervais. “It’s pronounced ‘Bad-Gee,’ it’s French,” he says in one of many terrific verbal zingers that will keep audiences laughing from start to finish.

Of course Badguy is truly a bad guy, the brains behind a sinister plan to replace Kermit with his Kelly green doppelganger: Constantine, “the world’s most dangerous frog.” The idea is for the Muppets’ European tour to really become a cover — as Badguy & Co. engage in a cross-continental series of thievery.

Poor Kermit soon finds himself locked up in Constantine’s old prison cell — deep in the heart of the Russian Gulag, overseen by the tyrannical (yet naturally comedic) Nadya (Tina Fey, sporting her best Slavic accent).

Of course Kermit plans his escape — under the ruse of directing the prison talent show. One truly delightful moment: watching Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo dueting “I Hope I Get It” from “A Chorus Line.”

Talk about a terrific odd coupling!

I won’t spoil the fun by revealing the celebrity cameos that we come to expect from Muppets movies, but this latest film doesn’t disappoint in that department either. The pacing is spot-on, and Fey’s Russian guard and Ty Burrell’s Interpol agent are wonderful human additions to this comedic romp.

After watching “Muppets Most Wanted,” I came away realizing how we will want these amazing characters for a very long time to come.


Twitter: @billzwecker

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