I know, that headline is trouble. You're always treading dangerous ground when you insist on defining what makes a good this or the right kind of that, as if there is no room for change or improvement when it comes to classic properties. Of course there is — Jason Segel's 2011 Muppet film approached the concept from an entirely different direction. It didn't hit all of its marks, but it prevailed overall in its conceit: make a movie not about Muppets, but about Muppet fandom. But Muppets Most Wanted, in absence of a clear mission statement and fueled largely by the monetary glimmers of the sequel game (the film's opening number admits this outright), has fewer marks readily available to hit. Landing in the ambiguity between the classic Muppet adventure formula and Segel's post-modern Henson appreciation party, Most Wanted feels like a failure on both counts. It doesn't know which kind of movie it wants to, or should, be. So it doesn't really be anything.
On the one hand, there's the half-cocked "get-the-band-back-together" through line, mimicking but not quite accomplishing the spirit of the 2011 picture. None of the Muppets are particularly likable or charming in this turn, and even fewer of them actually given anything to do. Kermit loses his s**t in the first act after a spat with Piggy and a barrage of insubordination from his troupe (provoked by the nefarious Dominic Badguy, Ricky Gervais), storms off in a huff, and gets swept up in a case of mistaken identity when his criminal doppelganger Constantine pulls the old switcheroo, landing Kermit in a Russian gulag. You'd think this would be a good opportunity for the second tier of Muppet favorites — Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo, Scooter, Rowlf, et al — to go on a search and rescue... but save for a very brief sequence at the tail end of this achingly long film, none of the other Muppets are giving anything to do. They just hem and haw and perform the occasional "Indoor Running of the Bulls" while Dominic and Constantine scheme, rob banks, and bicker.
Meanwhile, Kermit has some fun in prison — a far more endearing plot that sees him befriending the merry convicts, organizing a penitentiary revue, and even winning the heart of the vicious warden Nadia (Tina Fey). If only we could spend more time with real Kermit and less time with fake Kermit and his second banana Gervais, an effectively boring pair.
On the other hand, though, there's the Muppet shtick that fans of The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island — and yes, The Muppet Show itself — will deem the movie's best material: CIA Agent Sam Eagle and Interpol Agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) hot on the trail of Constantine and Dominic. Here, we get a different type of Muppet movie entirely from what Segel and the A-plot in Most Wanted are opting: the old fashioned vaudeville act, with Sam standing as an independent entity from his googly-eyed brethren, on a goofy, musical prowl with Burrell that fuels the film with its best and most consistent chuckles. Their "Interrogation Song" number is outstanding, exemplifying the many talents of Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie, who wrote all the music for this and the previous film.
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Unfortunately, Muppets Most Wanted isn't sure that it wants to be The Great Muppet Caper, beheld so stubbornly to its Segelian roots. There's a palpable compulsion to stick with this agonizingly self-aware, nostalgia-crazy, brimming-beacons-of-the-past-in-a-callous-today theme that doesn't work a fraction as well as it did in the 2011 film. Without a legitimate celebration of any of our favorite characters, how could it? With so much going on in this movie, and such a lengthy runtime at just under two hours, it's a sure sign of failure that we walk away feeling like we spent barely any time with the Muppets.
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Joey McIntyre Heads to Beverly Hills: In today's '90s news, former New Kids on the Block-er Joey McIntyre will guest star on The CW's reboot of 90210. McIntyre will play a music manager who does business with Tristan Wilds' character, Dixon. It is scheduled to air in February of 2013, though this probably should have aired in 1993, replacing the words 'Tristan Wilds' with 'Brian Austin Green.' [EW]
Entertainment Tonight Nabs a Co-Host: Nancy O'Dell can breathe a sigh of relief — she won't be going at it alone anymore. CNN's Rob Marciano was named co-anchor of CBS' Entertainment Tonight today, as Mark Steines ended his 17-year tenure last July. [Deadline]
Michael Bay Gets Some New Neighbors: For once, Michael Bay plus aliens will NOT equal explosions. Bay is set to guest star on an upcoming episode of ABC's recently picked-up aliens-next-door comedy The Neighbors, as himself. He'll run into Jami Gertz's character (a human) at a club — but we're sure some extraterrestrial hijinks will ensue. [TVLine]
Matthew Lillard Tries Journalism: FX's pilot The Bridge keeps sounding better and better. They've already cast Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir as American and Mexican agents going after the same killer, and now Matthew Lillard has joined the cast as Daniel Frye, a cocky reporter who likes to paaarrrrtttaaayyy. Homeland's Meredith Stiehm and Hawaii Five-0's Elwood Reid are set to exec produce the pilot, and if it goes to series, Lillard will heavily recur. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Fringe Alum Gets Arrow-ed: My fellow Fringe-ies and Arrow lovers, rejoice! Lincoln Lee Seth Gabel has joined the Arrow cast as a “scary and nightmarish” super-villain modeled after the DC Comics character Vertigo. Now, Gabel will not be playing Vertigo himself — they're similar, but don't have the same name, and TVLine says Gabel's version will have a dark, Christopher Nolan-esque vibe. However, a new drug called Vertigo will pop up in the Sterling City streets, in Gabel's early 2013 debut episode. Our money's on Oliver Queen thinking this drug has failed his city. [TVLine]
Vampire Diaries and Arrow Unite: Well, their showrunners will, anyway. Julie Plec and Greg Berlanti — the showrunners behind TVD and Arrow, respectively — have teamed up for a CW remake of The Tomorrow People, a British cult classic from the '70s. The original featured several young people who represented the next phase of humanity, all possessing different powers, including the ability to teleport and communicate telepathically with each other. We imagine the CW version will feature more shirtless scenes than the original, and are very excited. [Deadline]
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While CBS was busy handing out Grammys for what felt like all of Sunday night, ABC made some important announcements of its own: the participants in season 8 of Dancing with the Stars.
Well, most of them, anyway.
Thirteen ‘star’ contestants were announced, with the final celeb dancers to be revealed on Feb. 12.
Among the highlights: Jackass’ resident self-mutilator Steve-O; Grammy-winning rapper/onetime jailbird Lil' Kim; Apple cofounder/Kathy Griffin’s former beau Steve Wozniak; actress/reality TV also-ran Denise Richards; and pop-turned-country singer Jewel and her cowboy husband Ty Murray, the first-ever spouses to appear together on the show.
The other contestants will include Olympic gold-medal gymnast (and token athlete participant) Shawn Johnson; country singer Chuck Wicks; Gilles Marini (aka “The Naked Guy” from the Sex and the City movie); former NFL star (and token football-player contestant) Lawrence Taylor; Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O'Dell; ‘80s singer Belinda Carlisle; and TV journeyman David Alan Grier.
The new season kicks off March 9.
So, who do you expect -- or hope -- the final contestants will be?
MORE NEWS: 'Slumdog' Dominates BAFTAs
Ryan Seacrest calls Simon Cowell "pompous"
Ryan Seacrest, host of Fox's hit series American Idol, dissed acerbic judge Simon Cowell during a visit to Singapore, where a local version of the program is planned. "I think that he's pompous. I think that he's arrogant. So my feelings about him, and the way that I address him on air, are very real," Seacrest said Wednesday in an interview with the Straits Times newspaper. "I think he says things that are at times a bit too harsh and could probably convey them in a different light so that they don't crush a young person's dream." But the 29-year-old emcee added that Cowell was a good friend and the "most honest" of the show's three judges, according to excerpts published by The Associate Press. A record 65 million phone votes were cast in the finale of the latest American Idol season, which saw 19-year-old single mother Fantasia Barrino crowned the third Idol winner.
Catherine Zeta-Jones' stalker charged
A 33-year-old woman was charged in Los Angeles last week with stalking Catherine Zeta-Jones and making threatening phone calls, Reuters reports. According to a statement released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Dawnette Knight was arrested at her Beverly Hills apartment after a four-month investigation, during which time Zeta-Jones was the target of numerous threatening letters and phone calls. Knight was arraigned on one count of stalking and 25 counts of making "terrorist threats." She remains in custody. The British actress is married to Hollywood veteran Michael Douglas, and won an Academy Award last year for best supporting actress in the hit musical Chicago.
Pat O'Brien joins ET spinoff
Pat O'Brien is leaving Access Hollywood for a new gig as the Los Angeles anchor of The Insider-- a new spinoff of Access Hollywood's rival Entertainment Tonight set to premiere Sept. 13. AH executive producer Rob Silverstein said Wednesday that O'Brien's contract with the show was expiring and his departure was amicable. Sources told Reuters that former Good Morning America correspondent Lara Spencer will serve as O'Brien's New York counterpart on The Insider, while Access Hollywood East Coast correspondent Billy Bush will relocate to Los Angeles to share anchor duties with Nancy O'Dell, who has been with the show since it launched in 1996.
Johnny Ramone's wife says guitarist isn't dying
Johnny Ramone, who has been living with prostate cancer for several years,
was recently admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with
what his physician called a "complication from the cancer." Ramone’s
hospitalization set off a nationwide media deathwatch earlier this week.
According to MTV.com, his wife Linda Ramone was so dismayed by the funereal
headlines that she authorized Ramone’s doctor to explain his condition to
the media--despite the fact that the 55-year-old guitarist refused to issue
a corrective press statement. Dr. David Agus told MTV News Wednesday that
Ramone is now on a new, experimental therapy and predicts he will be going home
in the near term. "He's not dying," Linda said. "He was OK for years, and
he's fine now. He's in the hospital, but he's not in ICU. And I think he may
be leaving by tomorrow."
Screener issue rises from the ashes
Following a year of controversy over the Motion Picture Assn. of America's (MPAA) controversial screener ban, which bowed under legal action brought on by the indie film community, the issue is once again on the forefront. According to Reuters, Oscar voters could receive specially encoded promotional DVDs during the upcoming awards season. The discs would have to be played on a new system from Dolby Inc. unit Cinea, which would be sent to all members. Last year, major studios resorted to sending out watermarked VHS tapes because DVDs were considered more susceptible to piracy.
Franchise Pictures held accountable
A California jury on Wednesday ordered the production company Franchise Pictures to pay $77 million to Germany's Intertainment AG for padding production costs for about a dozen films such as Sylvester Stallone's Driven, Reuters reports. The legal dispute arose from a 1999 contract, in which Intertainment agreed to fund 47 percent of production costs for about a dozen big-budget U.S. films in return for European distribution rights. In some cases, however, Intertainment unknowingly picked up the entire tab for the big budget films, Intertainment's attorney Scott Edelman told Reuters. Other films included The Whole Nine Yards starring Bruce Willis and The Art of War starring Wesley Snipes.
Transient charged with grisly murders
Keven Lee Graff, a 27-year-old homeless man, has been accused of beheading 91-year-old Robert Lees, a once-blacklisted screenwriter best known for writing Abbott and Costello comedies, as well as stabbing Lees' neighbor, Morley Engleson, to death, Reuters reports. Police say that Graff murdered Lees, then cut off his head and ran with it to Engleson's home. There, police said, he interrupted the physician speaking on the phone and stabbed him to death. Graff was charged with murder with special circumstances, meaning that prosecutors could seek the death penalty against him if he is convicted, Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office told Reuters. Graff was arrested on Monday near the gates of the Paramount Pictures studio in Hollywood, one day after Lees and Engleson were found slain.
Role Call: Chocolate Factory casts kids, Bow Wow in Bounce
Director Tim Burton has rounded out his young cast for his updated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, including Anna Sophia Robb as Violet Beauregarde, Jordan Fry as Mike Teevee, Julia Winter as Veruca Salt and Philip Wiegratz as Augustus Gloop. British actor Freddie Highmore had previously been cast in the title role of Charlie, while Johnny Depp will portray Willy Wonka ... Rapper Bow Wow (grown up for being 'Lil Bow Wow) and Chi McBride are teaming up for Roll Bounce, a roller-skating comedy. Set in the '70s, story revolves around X (Bow Wow) and his pals, who rule supreme at their local roller-skating rink, but when the doors close, the boys venture into foreign territory--uptown's Sweetwater Roller Rink, complete with over-the-top skaters and beautiful girls. Through his preparation for the showdown of the season, X manages to find himself and also help his dad (McBride) get back on track.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.