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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Charlie Sheen was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles yesterday morning, after complaining of severe stomach pains. No word on if his severe stomach pains were brought on by the sheer excitement that a briefcase full of cocaine brings him or the pressure of creating his "porn family" in the house of Vanna White's ex-husband. Either/or I'd say. - Contact Music, TMZ
TMZ spoke to Kacey Jordan, a porn star who was with Sheen for 36 hours prior to him being taken to the hospital and there's video of her saying everything that happened. Her story is completely and honestly true and valid and legitimate and has been corroborated and is completely factual and is just as perfect as a 5 tier cake, where all the layers are admissions of honesty. - TMZ
A woman is suing P Diddy for being responsible for the collapse of the World Trade Center, among other things. She is requesting $900 billion in child support and $100 billion for loss of income. She claims she was abused by Diddly from 2001 to 2010, that he put her child in a wheelchair, sexually abused her children, took a chip from a Mississippi casino that was worth "$100 zillion" that belonged to her, and stole her hospital keys. - Radar
Piers Morgan, being the tough piece of clumped up granola that he is, asked Kourtney and Kim Kardashian what their talents are. They responded that their talent is marketing, which is as true and/or believable as a squirrel in a wheelchair going up on stage during a camp talent show and tap dancing. - CNN
Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson pleaded no contest Wednesday to charges of disorderly conduct and assault and battery, The Associated Press reports. Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, was charged with sexual misconduct for allegedly gyrating against a security guard during a July 2001 concert at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Michigan. Manson was ordered to pay fines totaling $4,000.
Manson's litigation nightmares are far from over. He is also being sued by security guards who accuse him of similar behavior during an October 2000 concert in Minneapolis, and an August 2001 show in Long Island, N.Y. In a separate case, the mother of a woman who died when she drove her car into some parked cars is also suing him for wrongful death, claiming Manson gave her daughter drugs and sent her home.
The manager of the theater where Madonna is making her London stage debut has apparently quit over what he says is the star's never-ending demands and quest for total control. According to the London Evening Standard, William Ingrey, who has spent nearly 30 years at the theater, had become exasperated by all the fuss surrounding Madonna and told colleagues he was "unable to cope with constraints put upon him to satisfy the needs of the present productions."
It's a girl for singer Brandy and her producer husband, Robert Smith, the AP reports. Brandy's first child, named Sy'rai, was born on Father's Day, two days before an MTV series on her pregnancy debuted. Diary Presents: Brandy--Special Delivery, will run for about four or five episodes.
Vanna White, Wheel of Fortune's famed letter turner, has filed for divorce from her husband of 11 years, restaurateur George Santo Pietro. A spokeswoman for the show told Reuters that the two are not bitter and remain good friends. The couple has two children--a daughter, 5, and a son, 8.
Actress Liv Tyler is in negotiations to join the cast of Miramax Films' Jersey Girl, which is scheduled to begin production Aug. 12 in Philadelphia, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The role would reunite Tyler with her Armageddon co-star Ben Affleck. The film, directed by Kevin Smith, also stars Jennifer Lopez.
Robert Luketic, who directed last year's sleeper hit Legally Blonde, is in talks to helm the DreamWorks comedy Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, reports Variety. The film follows a young grocery clerk who leaves West Virginia for the West Coast after winning a date with Hollywood's most eligible bachelor.
Actor/comedian Damon Wayans is outraged over Fox's decision to move The Bernie Mac Show from its original 9 p.m. time slot to 8 p.m., when it will air opposite Wayans' My Wife and Kids on ABC on Wednesdays. Wayans told The Los Angeles Times, "The networks should not be playing checkers with two shows about African-American families that are working....It's divide and conquer." My Wife and Kids earned Wayans a People's Choice Award for favorite male performer on a TV series, while The Bernie Mac Show recently took home a Peabody Award.
Nickelodeon's special on gay parenting, My Family Is Different, pulled in strong ratings despite protests from conservative groups accusing the network of "homosexual advocacy." According to Variety, the program brought in 976,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demographic, a record for the kids' cable channel's news specials. In kids 12-17, 145,000 teens tuned in.