Muppets Most Wanted

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild action
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril and action, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: March 21, 2014
Date Released to DVD: August 11, 2014
Amazon.com ASIN: B00H4RL2H2
Poster courtesy Walt Disney Pictures
Poster courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

The Muppets live up to the title in this adorable follow-up that is even truer to the essence of Muppetry than the Jason Segal predecessor because it puts the Muppets themselves at the heart of the story, not the humans. And that’s very good news. No one is better than the Muppets at creating a giddy mixture of sharp wit, delirious silliness, pop culture references (here they range from Ingmar Bergman’s scythe-bearing Death chess match to a “Producers”-inspired prison gang kick-line) and random guest stars (Lady Gaga! Tony Bennett! Together!), and a self-deprecating but irrepressibly sunny sensibility. There is always grand spectacle, romance, and heart, even a brief but telling lesson in manners. Plus, there’s another tuneful and hilarious collection of songs from Oscar-winner Bret McKenzie. The result is pure joy.

It starts about one minute after the last movie ends.  The human couple is clearly on the road to happily ever after, but what about the Muppets?  Time for a sequel! “While they wait for Tom Hanks to Make ‘Toy Story 4,'” they sing, even though “everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good.”  They also blithely explain that we can expect “a family-style adventure during which we should bond and learn heartwarming lessons like sharing and taking your turn and the Number 3.”

The Muppets hire Dominic Badguy (“pronounced Bad-GEE”) (Ricky Gervais) as their new tour manager and go to Europe to perform.  He actually is a bad GUY, however, and the tour is just a cover for an elaborate series of heists, conveniently located next door to the venues selected by Dominic.  Meanwhile, Constantine, the most dangerous frog in the world, escapes from the Siberian gulag where he has been in prison.  And he looks almost exactly like Kermit, except for a distinctive beauty mark on his cheek.  Constantine slaps a fake birthmark onto Kermit’s cheek, covers his own with green make-up, and soon Kermit is captured (vainly trying to explain that he’s an “Amphibian-American”) and sent to the gulag.

And Constantine is running the Muppet Show.  Even though he speaks with a thick accent and has a completely different personality, none of the Muppets notices the switch, especially when he tells them they can do whatever they want.  Miss Piggy does not realize that her beloved frog has been replaced.

Meanwhile, the hard core prisoners in the gulag (including Ray Liotta and a mystery guest star in solitary) figure out immediately that Kermit is not Constantine because he says “thank you.”  Even Nadya (Tina Fey), who runs the prison, knows it is not Constantine.  But her fondest dream is a first-class gulag musical show.  She won’t let Kermit leave because she needs him to direct it.  And she knows every possible trick the prisoners might try to sneak out.  She explains, “I have a Netflix account with the search words ‘prison escape.'”  Also, she likes him.  So, soon Kermit is overseeing a prison kick-line to a song from “A Chorus Line” (the guy in solitary has a great set of pipes).  And Constantine is getting ready for the biggest heist of all: the British royal family’s crown jewels, though — wait for it — “It’s not easy being mean.”

On the path of the master thieves are a pair of non-master detectives, Jean Pierre Napoleon from Interpol (Ty Burell, through no fault of his own the movie’s only weak point) and Sam the Eagle from the FBI.  Their competition over the size of their badges is rather fun, but then their appearances descend into repeated and increasingly flat jokes about Napoleon’s tiny car and constant breaks for meals and vacations.  But then we have the classic shots of newspapers to bring us up to date: “Slow News Week; Muppets Dominate Headlines” and we’re back in Muppet heaven.

Note: Be sure to get to the theater in time.  There’s an adorable “Monsters University” short before the feature starts.

Parents should know that there is some bad behavior, a very brief scary skeleton and mild peril.  Scenes in the gulag play dire prison conditions and treatment for comedy.

Family discussion: How could Nadya, Fozzie, and Walter tell the difference between Kermit and Constantine? Why didn’t anyone else figure out what was going on?  Why did Constantine let the Muppets do whatever they wanted?

If you like this, try: The Muppet Show and their feature films

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Based on a television show Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy For the Whole Family Musical Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel
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The Muppets

Posted on November 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm

A
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some tense confrontations
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 23, 2011
Date Released to DVD: March 19, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B006JTS5OO

Let the joy be unrestrained.  The Muppets are back.  It turns out that deep inside Jason Segal, best known for raunchy Judd Apatow comedies and for playing the monogamous Marshall on “How I Met Your Mother,” is at his core a puppet nerd whose highest and best use is in pushing Disney (which now owns the rights to the Muppets) to let him co-write and co-star in the happiest family movie of the year.  And it is accompanied by a “Toy Story” short film that is, minute for minute, the funniest movie of the year.

Segal plays Gary, a sweet small-town guy who is devoted to his brother Walter and his girlfriend of ten years, Mary (Amy Adams), a teacher.  Gary and Walter are devoted fans of the old Muppet Showand they spend many happy hours watching reruns.  When Gary takes Mary on their first visit to the big city of Los Angeles, they bring Walter along so that he can realize his dream of touring the Muppet studios.  Mary was hoping for something a bit more romantic but good-heartedly agrees to share the trip with Walter as long as Gary promises a special anniversary dinner for just the two of them.

The Muppet studio is broken-down and covered with cobwebs.  The only other people on the tour are a couple who mistakenly thought they were at Universal Studios.  Walter wanders off and overhears the dastardly Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plotting to buy the studio.  He will promise to preserve the Muppets legacy and then tear it down to drill for the oil underneath.  To save the studio the Muppets have to raise $10 million.  But they have gone their separate ways.  Can they get the band back together?  And if they do, does anyone still want to see them?  When Gary gets caught up in helping the Muppets, will he forget the anniversary dinner?

Segal and co-screenwriter Nicholas Stoller have seamlessly continued the story of the the captivating Muppets, with their unique blend of sweetness and self-deprecating insouciance. It’s what Danny Thomas used to call “treacle cutters” that keep the Muppets fresh and appealing, expertly countering every corny joke with heart and every tender moment with humor.  With joyously sunny musical numbers composed by “Flight of the Conchords” co-star Bret McKenzie and cameos by everyone from Mickey Rooney to Sara Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris, this film is utterly true to the spirit of the original television series and pure delight for both fans and newcomers.

 

(more…)

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Based on a television show Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week For the Whole Family Musical Romance Series/Sequel Talking animals

Muppets From Space

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 10:52 am

Like all Muppet movies, this latest entry has plenty of jokes to keep the parents happy while the kids are enjoying the story. This time, the story focuses on a question that has intrigued Muppet fans for years: exactly what IS Gonzo? Gonzo feels alone and outcast, even in the midst of the busy Muppet group house. He dreams that Noah refuses to let him on the ark because there is only one of him, and Noah wants only pairs. But then he begins receiving messages and learns that he is an alien, and that his alien family is coming to meet him.

There is a problem, though. Edgar Singer (Jeffrey Tambor of television’s “Larry Sanders Show”), who works at a mysterious government office that tracks aliens, captures Gonzo and orders a scientist to remove his brain for study. Gonzo’s pal Rizzo the Rat is put in a cage with lab rats. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, and the others set out to rescue them.

The movie has sly references to just about every space movie classic, from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” (plus “The Shawshank Redemption”), cameos from stars including Andie MacDowell, Ray Liotta, and David Arquette, and a bouncy score of rock classics. While the score draws from performers like James Brown, The Commodores and Sly and the Family Stone, the human performers are overwhelmingly white, a mistake also too often committed by the sci-fi movies so lovingly parodied. With that caveat, and with the further warning that this may not be the Muppets’ all-time best, it is a very pleasant way to spend a quick 90 minutes, and the best movie of the summer for families with younger children.

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Animation Based on a television show Comedy For all ages For the Whole Family Talking animals
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