At least the songs are great. The team behind Muppets Most Wanted wisely kept songwriter Bret McKenzie from the first Muppet reboot, and he contributes a handful of lively new songs that are just as good, if not better, than his Oscar-winning "Man or Muppet." Unfortunately, the movie around those songs isn't funny, energetic, or sly enough to make it a Muppet classic.

The plot isn't the problem. Muppets Most Wanted is a caper film about a Russian Kermit the Frog doppelgänger named Constantine who arranges to have Kermit thrown in a Siberian gulag. Disguised as Kermit, Constantine and his second-in-command (an occasionally funny Ricky Gervais) lead the Muppets on a European tour built around a series of heists. There are some very funny moments spread throughout (although the first half is funnier than the second), and the celebrities are for the most part well-deployed (Tina Fey and Danny Trejo brighten up the gulag scenes).

So what's the problem? Part of it is a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of director James Bobin and screenwriter Nicholas Stoller about what makes the Muppets work. For the most part, they're played off as real-life cartoon characters who run around too much, act out of character in service of a broad punch line, and waste time on too-obvious jokes. We're not in the dark days of Muppet Treasure Island or Muppets from Space anymore, but we're still miles away from the genius of Jim Henson. I'd encourage the filmmakers, on their next outing, to do away with CGI effects entirely—there were far too many digitally erased puppeteers in this movie—and get back to the sheer joy and ingenuity of puppetry. Much of the liveliness of a classic Muppet movie springs from the wonder of how they managed to pull off a shot with a bunch of felt and a halved ping-pong ball. There's none of that wonder here. recommended