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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It’s official. We’re all old. Today, June 11, is the 10th anniversary of American Idol, which means the series is basically the age of a precocious, articulate child. (Are you ready for the pre-teen years, Nigel Lythgoe?) In honor of the series that has surprised, delighted, entertained, and enraged us for the past 10 years, we’ve compiled the show’s best, worst, and WTF moments. But listing the series’ best performances would be too easy. Instead, we've decided to look back at the non-musical moments — after all, we can't forget the outrageous fights, falls, and outfits meriting a slack-jawed double-take. These are the non-competition-based moments you probably forgot (and many that you’re still trying to).
Thanks for 10 entertaining, perplexing years (and Season 9), Idol!
Best of the Best
Kelly Clarkson’s Finale Breakdown with Nikki McKibbin and Tamyra Gray: This adorable break of emotion follows what is still the best finale moment of the series (no winner’s single can beat “A Moment Like This”), but the best part was when Clarkson couldn’t manage the final line due to an overwhelming wave of emotion. And when Nikki and Tamyra joined her in a group hug and helped their girl out (Nikki perhaps a bit too much), it truly felt like an expression of family, instead of cutthroat competition.
Ruben Studdard Earns a Nickname: “The Velvet Teddy Bear”
Juanita Barber Gets Testy With Simon: She was wrong. So totally wrong. But man, did it feel good to see some dish it back to King of Mean, Simon Cowell.
Season 5’s Ayla Brown Gets Famous Again When Scott Brown Tells the World She’s “Available”: Hey, thank God her Idol fame came back into the spotlight, or she’d have to settle for just being Brown’s “available” daughter. No one wants to be famous for being pimped out by your politician father.
Sanjaya’s Ponk Hawk: There are no words for this glorious incident. Only video.
Anthony Fedorov’s Transformation: He showed up looking like Revenge of the Nerds: R&B Adventure, but by the end of his Season 4 run, he looked more like a back-up Nick Carter. How this prepared him for his future role as Jesus Christ: Superstar, remains a mystery.
Chris Sligh’s Inspiration for Auditioning Was “To Make David Hasselhoff Cry”: This guy, he’s got jokes. And that one was a classic.
Queen Couldn’t Stand Ace Young’s “We Will Rock You” Either: In rehearsals, Brian May tells Young, "I will not do that to my song," when the contestant asks if he could spice up its beats. There’s nothing quite like the vindication of knowing a legendary rock band agrees with you.
Phil Stacey’s Helluva Day: In the same day, Phil Stacey wowed the judging panel in his audition, walked away with a golden ticket, and became a father.
Kelly Pickler’s Wealth of Ditzy One-Liners: The Season 7 contestant never failed to make us laugh, even if she wasn’t sure why. From the mind-boggling “What’s a ballsy?” to the classic “I had salmon,” Miss Pickler regularly had us in stiches.
Idol Gives Back Gives Us a Good Laugh: Idol Gives Back gave us back a little hope after a dreadful Season 9 in the form of some giggles. Russell Brand and Jonah Hill attempted to make us laugh with their cross-promotional Get Him to the Greek mumbo jumbo, but it was Wanda Sykes grilling Simon that really did the trick. Plus, let us take hilarious note of Tim Urban’s ditzy moment at the 1:20 mark.
Kara and Paula Give Bikini Girl a Piece of Their Minds: The bobble-headed Bikini Girl of Season 8 has become infamous. Not only did she attempt to set women-kind back about a 100 years with her sexist stunt of an audition, but she just wasn’t that great. Leave it to the ladies, Kara and Paula, to show her what real singing sounds like… even if it did descend into the madness of a giggly screechfest.
Screechfest Part Deux: Katy Perry vs. Kara: We all knew it was almost time for Kara to take a hike, and Katy Perry was the perfect sassy lady to help her in the right direction (and throw a coke in her face).
Scotty McCreery Apologizes For Bullying Jacee Badeaux: During the Season 10 auditions, the poor 15-year-old was left without a group mere hours before group performances and no one would have the youngster. The little guy spent most of the night crying until he finally found a group, but the real tender moment came when future winner Scotty McCreery took to the stage to deliver a sincere apology for adding to the kid’s terror.
Heejun Han “Talks a Lot of Craps” About Richie The Cowboy: Best. Group Week Fight. Ever. Oh, Heejun, you need a sitcom. It was hilarious watching Richie push Heejun’s every button and hearing Heejun’s annoyed responses about “hating all cowboys… even the Dallas cowboys,” but his “apology” took the cake:
Next: And now, for the Worst moments…Worst Moments – So Bad, They’re Good
Ryan Starr’s Mind-Boggling Wardrobe: Note to future Idol contestants: Try not to look like you’re hoping to be America’s Next Singing Gladiator when you’re on that very public stage.
Clay Aiken. Singing a Grease Song. In a red leather jacket: Song choice aside, let us analyze this ridiculous get-up. Dear Clay, this was about as tough as a teddy bear in a gladiator costume. Sorry, Clay, but Tim Gunn would not approve.
William Hung Followed Up His Idol Audition With “Success”: And by that, we mean some very “discerning” consumers paid money for his “album.”
Elton John Called Voting “Racist” When Jennifer Hudson and LaToya London Were Eliminated: There’s just one small issue with Sir John’s argument. That same season, Fantasia Barrino took home the Idol title.
Jonathan Rey Throws Water at Simon: This angry auditioner didn’t like what Cowell had to say (either that or he was just as curious about what was in that mysterious Coke cup) and he upended Simon’s Coca-Cola Chalice all over the cranky judge.
The Brittenum Twins Break the Law Before Showtime: After making it through Hollywood week, these singing twins threw it all away when they were busted for identity theft and were removed from the show. Idol says: Crime Doesn’t Pay.
Season 6’s Jared Cotter Dedicates “Let’s Get It On” To His Parents: Yes, you should always thank your parents. But maybe, just maybe, check the words of the song you’re about to sing before you dedicate a sex anthem to mommy and daddy. It’s just a thought.
Danny Noriega Nabs Himself a Catchphrase: Too bad “I guess they weren’t likin' it” wasn’t what America was looking for in an Idol.
Simon Tells Ryan to “Come Out Already”: These two were constantly in hot water for their homophobic banter, but this cantankerous reply from Simon Cowell took the cake. It’s one of those things we wish we could forget, but unfortunately, it’s on YouTube.
Kristy Lee Cook Gets a Little Bold With Simon: There’s defending yourself, and then there’s sticking your foot in your mouth. Guess which one describes Kristy…
Ryan Tries to Hive-Five Scott MacIntyre: Hey Seacrest, let’s try to not grab a blind guy’s hand and force him to high five you. That’s not awkward at all.
Everything Siobhan Magnus Ever Wore: She may have had a set of pipes for days, but Siobhan consistently looked like she walked into a closet covered in glue and wore whatever managed to attach itself to her sticky figure.
Kara Picks a Fight With a Guy Who's Clearly Screwing With Her: Part of the deal for an American Idol judge is putting up with the obviously fabricated characters the producers throw at them, but usually, the judges seem to be in on the game. Kara didn't quite get that concept, especially when the handsome and terribly annoying Andrew Fenlon waltzed into the audition room.
Casey James’ Creepy Audition: Yes, Kara, you had to endure Bikini Girl, but please don’t turn what should be an innocent audition into your wild, uncomfortable fantasy. We don’t want to join you in that apparently dark place.
Jennifer Lopez Cries for Chris Medina: When the judges had to eliminate Season 10 hopeful Chris Medina, despite his incredible tear-jerker of a love story, we understood Jennifer's pain. Her drama taking up the majority of the camera time, however...
Jermaine Jones is Chastized and DQ’ed on National Television: It’s understandable that the Idol producers would like to make sure they explained Jones’ sudden departure, especially after the media broke the story before his last episode could air, but this “interview” was just cruel and unusual. It’s one thing to have your past indiscretions aired all over the media, but it’s completely another to have your past indiscretions explained to you like you’re a child in front of 14 million people.
The Birth of Randy’s “Yo” Pin: Season 11 saw Randy’s favorite accessory come out to compete against Steven Tyler’s scarf collection and Jennifer Lopez’ hair. There’s just one snag with his little plan: “Yo” is not a catchphrase, my friend.
What’s you favorite – or least favorite – non-musical Idol moment?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.