Now here is a reboot to cheer for. The Muppets heralds the return of Jim Henson’s beloved furry creations resurrected from pop-culture irrelevance and lovingly restored to their former greatness in a vibrant comedy-musical.
Jason Segel in addition to co-writing and starring in the film served as executive producer and the project's resident evangelist. His choice of collaborators is inspired. Directing is James Bobin best known as the co-creator along with Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords a show whose good-natured and yet slyly irreverent tone often recalled that of old Muppet Show episodes. (I’ve never quite recovered from its premature departure.) McKenzie served as music supervisor contributing several original songs to the soundtrack. Segel’s co-star Amy Adams is the rare breed of actress who can transition from playing a pugilistic potty-mouthed waitress (in The Fighter) to the role of an angelic schoolteacher with ease. And few actors portray cartoonish villainy with more verve than Oscar winner Chris Cooper.
The film opens with a montage introducing the character of Walter a Muppet raised in Smalltown USA who figures himself the first and only of his kind until he happens upon an old Muppet Show rerun after which he is inexorably transfixed. Together with his “brother ” Gary (Segel) and Gary’s fiancé Mary (Adams) he travels out to Los Angeles to meet his idols only to find their studio vacated and on the verge of being demolished by Tex Richman (Cooper) a sinister tycoon who covets the oil reserves beneath it.
The only way to save the studio naturally is a kick-ass variety show reuniting the Muppets long estranged after the demise of their television series. Kermit the Frog is now holed up in a sprawling Bel Air mansion which he once dreamed of sharing with his former flame Miss Piggy who has gone on to become Vogue’s “plus-size” editor in Paris. Consummate entertainer Fozzy Bear is slumming it in Reno with a tribute band dubbed the Moopets; Gonzo is consumed by his work as CEO of the plumbing company Gonzo’s Royal Flush; and Animal is seeking treatment at the Fresh Pathways anger management clinic.
Segel and company’s affection for the original Muppets property is clear so much so that some viewers may dismiss the film as a tedious exercise in nostalgia. Pay them no heed. Kermit and the crew are as fresh and funny as they were three decades ago and their anarchic brand of humor with young and old alike. The film suffers from an over-emphasis on its human characters (Gonzo’s miniscule screen time is particularly baffling) and McKenzie’s songwriting while more than adequate yields no memorable standouts in the vein of “Rainbow Connection” or “Mah Na Mah Na ” but these are minor quibbles. Only cynical curmudgeons like Statler and Waldorf would waste time finding fault with an experience this joyous.
Reports suggested the funnyman stormed out of the prizegiving after the 2007 Oscar went to Alan Arkin, but he insists he simply didn't want to be part of an all-star pity party.
In a candid new Rolling Stone magazine interview, the movie star explains, "What happened was, after I lost, I'm just chilling, and I was sitting next to Beyonce's pops (father), and he leans over and grabs me and is like, 'There will be other times'.
"And then you feel (Steven) Spielberg on your shoulder going, 'It's all right, man'. Then Clint Eastwood walks by: 'Hey, guy...' So I was like, 'It's not going to be this night!' I didn't have sour grapes at all.
"That's another reason I wanted to host the show - to show them that I'm down with it."
Based on the iconic 1960s television series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry the new 2008 big-screen incarnation of the show smartly goes its own way faithful in spirit but charting a new course for Maxwell Smart and company. With Steve Carell in the lead this Max is a likeable reliable paper-pushing analyst for spy agency CONTROL who dreams of one day of becoming a top agent out in the field himself. When CONTROL headquarters is attacked and nearly all the other agents identities are compromised he gets his chance. The Chief (Alan Arkin) has no choice but to bench his number one Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) in favor of Max now Agent 86. Max teams up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway)--a far more competent and experienced agent--in order to thwart the terrorist plans of KAOS lead by Siegfried (Terence Stamp) and his right-hand man Shtarker (Ken Davitian). This Get Smart is a full-out action-comedy with the emphasis on action. The actors make all the derring-do and wild on-screen antics totally believable.
There is no question that Don Adams and Maxwell Smart are interchangeable. It’s almost impossible to imagine another actor in the role which is why Steve Carell has made all the right choices choosing to take his Max in a different direction. This is no imitation at all but a fully fleshed out bumbling guy with dreams of his own. Carell is very funny trying to deal with gadgets out of his er control--using code language getting his signals mixed up and trying to be a decent partner for the much smarter 99. Hathaway gets to act tough for the first time in her career and makes this 99 a bright woman who is obviously light years ahead of all her male colleagues. Both stars skillfully handle the considerable physical humor required here. After scoring in his surprise family hit The Game Plan Dwayne Johnson continues to show his comic timing as the superstar agent who is grounded against his will. Stamp and Borat’s sidekick Davitian are amusing caricatures but stuck with rather one-dimensional over-the-top villain roles. Arkin is perfectly cast as the beleaguered Chief while James Caan as the U.S. President has little to do but does it well. Bill Murray’s cameo in a tree trunk just lays there. Director Peter Segal’s experience working with comedians like Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy clearly pays off here as he guides Steve Carell to one of his best screen performances against daunting odds. People always have built-in expectations for pre-sold properties like a Get Smart but Segal wisely uses the source material to make it work for two kinds of audiences: those who loved the TV series and those who have never heard of it. Key to the success of this adaptation is taking the characters and placing them in big action set pieces. What was an amusing weekly sitcom is now suddenly competing favorably with summer blockbusters delivering stunt-filled sequence after stunt-filled sequence. In fact there is almost too much action but fortunately Carell and company know how to bring it down to earth at just the right moments. The screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember catches the flavor of the old TV series retaining much of what we loved--including Smart’s famous catch-phrases (“Missed it by THAT much!)--but craftily updating it for today’s more sophisticated movie-goers. They got the blessing of the show’s famous creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry who served as consultants. That can only be a good thing.
Eddie Murphy's aides have hit back at reports the actor/comedian stormed out of the Oscars on Sunday after losing out to Alan Arkin--insisting her had always planned to leave after his category was announced.
Murphy, who was a favorite, left the Kodak Theater in Hollywood minutes after Arkin claimed gold for Best Supporting Actor--but his handlers claim Murphy would have left even if he had won.
His representative, Arnold Robinson, says, "Eddie had always planned on leaving after his category was announced to spend the rest of the evening with his family. He did the same thing following the Golden Globe Awards."
The explanation comes a day after Internet reports suggested Murphy was "a sore loser" for leaving the ceremony even before his Dreamgirls costar Jennifer Hudson claimed her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
COPYRIGHT 2007 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
Dreamgirls star Eddie Murphy was so devastated after losing the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award to Alan Arkin that he stormed out of the ceremony, according to press reports.
Murphy was the favorite to win the Oscar, which instead was awarded to Little Miss Sunshine star Arkin.
The 45-year-old tried to downplay his disappointment, telling Us Weekly magazine, "It's fine. It happens. It's OK."
But shortly thereafter, Murphy and girlfriend Tracey Edmonds left the show and didn't return.
Murphy missed out on his Dreamgirls castmates Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose performing songs from the film, as well as Hudson's win for Best Supporting Actress.
COPYRIGHT 2007 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) Duke are cousins--two hell-raisers who drive fast sell moonshine and bed sexy farm girls all across Georgia's Hazzard County. They've got another cousin Daisy Duke (Jessica Simpson) a drop-dead hottie who waits tables at the local watering hole. If someone gets a little too friendly with the gal she's knocks 'em on their ass--and if her cousins get into trouble she shakes hers to get them out of it. Then there's Uncle Jesse Duke (Willie Nelson) who makes the moonshine on his farm tells bad jokes and sings country-western songs. I can't quit thinking about how the Duke family dynamics work. They're all tight-knit cousins right? But Uncle Jesse isn't the father to any of them. So like where's the rest of the Dukes? There's gotta be other siblings parents maybe. It perplexes me. But I digress. Suffice to say the Dukes are always outrunning--and out-jumping--the local law enforcement in their souped-up Dodge Charger the General Lee. The boys are also constantly doing battle with the crooked county commissioner Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) who cooks up one nefarious plan after another to make Hazzard County his own personal cash cow only to be thwarted by those darn Dukes. Dagnabbit.
Although some diehard fans of the TV show may disagree the casting for this feature film redo is pretty spot on. Knoxville and Scott do just fine as the rip-roarin' Duke cousins bantering about one upping each other--you know boys stuff. Nelson's still got the whole pigtail thing going for him but he looks like he's having a good time. Reynolds does too but he's definitely a lot slicker--and a lot better looking--than the show's original Boss Hogg Sorrell Booke. As the bumbling police veteran character actor M.C. Gainey who always plays bad guys at least gets to show off some comedy chops as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. Michael Weston (Garden State) as the wimpy Deputy Enos Strate is sufficiently reduced to a puddle whenever Daisy is around. And then there's Simpson. My my my. It's obvious the camera (and whose ever behind it) loves every inch of her and she tends to light up the screen whenever she's on it. Of course playing Daisy in her acting debut isn't much of a stretch but Simpson still shows a comic flair. The singer-turned-actress could actually become a fairly serviceable comedic actress if she plays her cards right.
This is what director Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers) had to say about making The Dukes of Hazzard: "I had a poster of Daisy Duke [played in the original show by Catherine Bach] on my wall when I was nine that was very inspiring and when you combine the prospect of a new Daisy Duke with the opportunity to send the General Lee flying through the air again it was impossible for me to say no." Well Jay actually you could have said no and maybe the whole Hazzard as a feature idea would have gone away. It's perfectly suitable to have a television show be about nothing but cars flying through the air hot women in skimpy clothes and idiotic behavior. We'll always accept brain-friendly crap on TV. But to be subjected to an entire feature-length film of mindless stupidity is just too much at least in Hazzard's case. Sure watching the General Lee perform seemingly impossible stunts is fun. Apparently 28 Dodge Chargers had to be converted into the multiple General Lees needed for the film and the parts had to be hunted down on the Internet in junkyards or by word of mouth. Still after about the 100th time the car jumps over something you've had quite enough.