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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There have been more than a few Oscar-worthy performances never given their due by the Academy, and Entertainment Weekly is giving us their take on which ones were overlooked in its list of the top 100 performances that should have received Oscar nominations--but didn't. Crowning the list is James Stewart, who failed to get recognized by the Academy for his excellent portrayal of a man on the edge--literally--in Vertigo. Others on the list include Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story, Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz and Anthony Perkins in Psycho. The issue hits newsstands Friday.
Actor Jeffrey Jones, arrested last week on charges of possessing child pornography, told reporters outside a Los Angeles courthouse he wants "the truth to come out and for this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible," Reuters reports. Jones, 55, who was in court Thursday for his arraignment, has remained free on $20,000 bail. If convicted, he could face up to three years in jail and be registered a sex offender for life.
AP reports two men were arrested Thursday in connection with the shooting death of actor Merlin Santana Nov. 9. This follows the arrest of a 15-year-old girl last week, who was charged with the murder. The police told AP Damien Gates, 20, and Brandon Bynes, 23, apparently got into an verbal exchange with Santana and his friend on the night of the shooting, which created a "grudge," and may have escalated to violence.
Get set for more scary laughs. David Zucker (Airplane!, Top Secret!) will direct Scary Movie 3: Episode I for Dimension Films. This time film series such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars will be spoofed. Shawn and Marlon Wayans, who were involved in the first two Scary Movies, will not be part of the third installment.
Ethan Hawke and Angelina Jolie have signed on to star in Taking Lives, directed by D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea). Based on the book by Michael Pye, the story revolves around a female FBI profiler searching for a serial killer, who for the past 20 years has taken on the identities of the people he has killed.
AP reports Liza Minnelli and David Gest have hired high-profile attorney Michael Sherman, who recently represented Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel in the Martha Moxley murder case, to help them in their fight against VH1, which pulled the plug on the couple's planned reality series. Minnelli and Gest have not filed a lawsuit as yet, but are looking at all their legal recourses.
HBO's documentary series American Undercover will be soon venturing into a brothel in Nevada. The one-hour docu-show Cathouse takes a peek at the patrons and prostitutes of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, where prostitution is legal. It airs Dec. 8, after the season finale of The Sopranos.
Despite all the controversy surrounding his recent bizarre behavior, Michael Jackson still managed to show up at the Bambi Awards Thursday in Berlin to receive his "Pop Artist of the Millenium" award. AP reports he told the black-tied German audience he loved them and added, "We do not need to have war." Earlier in the week, he shocked fans and press alike when he dangled his infant son over the railing of his hotel room balcony. Berlin police told AP no crime had been committed.
Singer Tom Jones will be honored with a lifetime achievement award at next year's Brits, the British music industry's equivalent of the Grammys. Reuters reports the Welsh singer said, "This is great news. I am really chuffed. See you on the night."
Does the world really need rival films chronicling the life, agony and artistry of legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo?
Jennifer Lopez clearly does not think so. The actress-turned-singer-turned-fashion-statement has decided against portraying Kahlo in a Francis Ford Coppola-produced biography, opting instead to negotiate a $10 million paycheck for the crime drama, Taking Lives, according to Variety.
Lopez's decision means she will not square off against Selma Hayek, who will portray Kahlo in another version of the artist's life-this one from director Julie Taymor. Alfred Molina, Edward Norton, Ashley Judd and Geoffrey Rush will costar in Taymor's production, which Miramax recently greenlit.
If Lopez signs on for Taking Lives, she will play an FBI profiler assigned to track down a serial killer known for assuming his victims' identities. Production is scheduled to start in the fall or following the threatened actors' strike, once it is averted or settled. Jon Bokenkamp adapted the screenplay from a novel by Michael Pye.
The future of Coppola's Kahlo biography, a United Artists' production that has Luis Valdez attached to direct, remains unclear. Lopez was in discussions to star in the film but had not signed a deal, according to a Coppola spokeswoman, who did not know the film's status.
A United Artists spokesman did not return calls for comment.
Kahlo overcame polio and a serious car crash to become one of Mexico's most famous artists. She married Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, but boasted of many affairs with both men and women, including Communist leader Leon Trotsky. In 1953, she fell into a deep depression and became suicidal after she had her right leg amputated below the knee due to a gangrene infection. She died in 1954 of unknown causes.
This past year, Lopez has established her box-office appeal while enjoying front-page status because of her relationship with onetime beau, rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs, and the flesh-baring gowns she wears to award ceremonies. Combs--who was recently acquitted on gun and bribery charges--announced in February that he and Lopez had ended their two-year relationship.
Despite drawing lackluster reviews, The Cell and The Wedding Planner each earned approximately $60 million at the U.S. box office. Lopez made history in January when The Wedding Planner opened at No. 1 during the same week that her second album, J.Lo, landed in the top spot on the Billboard charts. Her next film, Angel Eyes, will open May 18. She plays a Chicago police officer who must deal with past secrets when she falls in love.
Rumors no more ... "The Mask of Zorro" star Antonio Banderas is definitely the odds-on finalist to don the disguise in a new film version of "The Phantom of the Opera" ... and, yes, Mike Myers will earn his first $20 million paycheck for Universal/Imagine's "Sprocket," based on the German movie critic and talk-show host character Dieter from the old "Saturday Night Live" sketches.
Both names had been attached to the projects, but their involvement is now close to a done deal. Reuters reports that "Phantom" director Shekhar Kapur is currently on the prowl to find a "stunning girl" to play opposite Banderas. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the "Sprockets" script by Myers and Michael McCullers begins shooting this summer.
No start date has been set for "Phantom," and a director has yet to be named for "Sprockets." Imagine's Brian Grazer will produce the latter, which is set for release in early 2001.
THE INCREDIBLE 'SHRINKING' EDDIE: "Dr. Doolittle." "The Nutty Professor." And now "The Incredible Shrinking Man." Eddie Murphy is quickly becoming Hollywood's go-to guy when it comes to remaking family-friendly fare. (And to think he shot to fame as a potty mouth in "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop")
Universal/Imagine's liked his '90s makeover in "Life," "Bowfinger" and the upcoming sequel "Nutty 2: The Klumps." They'll hope to continue the streak with the new version of "Shrinking." Murphy's committed to the project, in which he'll play a guy who shrinks after being exposed to a weird mist.
The project's set to begin after the comedian finishes Castle Rock's "Pluto Nash," which starts shooting next month.
BLANCHETT 'LIVES' FOR ACTION-THRILLER: Maybe it just wasn't the right FBI agent role (or maybe it was the whole cannibal thing) ... whatever the reasons, actress Cate Blanchett is in negotiations to play a character that sounds awfully familiar. In director Tony Scott's "Taking Lives," set to start shooting this summer, she's a female FBI profiler tracking down a serial killer who assumes the identities of his victims.
That assignment comes after the Oscar nominee passed on picking up where Jodie Foster left off in the upcoming "Hannibal," the sequel to "The Silence of the Lambs."
Blanchett's not the only A-lister who expressed interest in the "Lives" script, written by Jon Bokenkamp and based on a book by Brit Michael Pye. Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow is also a potential lead.