Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Not Quite a Mop, and It's Not Quite a Puppet

So...movies. We're in the middle of a severe drought of quality films to see as we await the upcoming onslaught of holiday movies to begin this weekend.  But, seeing as we are members of a Scenetourage1, we have seen two movies from utterly opposite ends of the quality spectrum. I'll let you guess which is which.


It's very hip now to claim lifelong devotion to the Muppets, but I can freely admit that, outside of being aware of them and watching the movies, the Muppets do not really hold a spot of reverence in my childhood (or adult) memories. That being said, though, a lack of Muppet expertise certainly does not detract from The Muppets.

The very few negative reviews of this film have mostly centred on the fact that there isn't a great deal for the adult viewer in the audience. Not only is that not particularly true, it's also a pretty lame reason to discount a movie of this quality.

Jason Segel apparently championed this movie, due to his personal Muppet love, and his subsequent performance was really a thing of genius. Employing just enough camp and cheese, Segel essentially becomes a Muppet himself, paralleling his "brother" Walter's transformation from Muppet to man, which, ultimately, means he gets to become a Muppet (confusing, I know), but it all becomes clear during Segel and Walter's rendition of "Muppet or Man?", also featuring Jim Parsons in a funny little cameo.

The plot (although not particularly important) focuses on Segel's Gary and his girlfriend Mary's (Amy Adams) trip to Los Angeles, which includes a side trip to the Muppet Theatre - a lifelong dream trip for Walter. The three arrive to find the Theatre is rundown and bordering on condemned, and it is quickly revealed that Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) is about to take over control of the theatre if the Muppets are unable to raise $10-million to buy it outright. Aaaaaaand...cue Muppet madness!

Walter approaches Kermit himself with the dilemma, and they set about tracking down all the former Muppets for the purpose of putting on one final show in hopes of raising the funds.

Much of the movie focuses on the lack of exposure of the Muppets in recent years, and how the world has moved on without them, including when Kermit goes through his Rolodex searching for a host for the show and realizes that those that have not passed away have simply been forgotten by their audience. They can't even get the special aired until a reality show is cancelled, leaving a primetime spot open. Eventually, Jack Black is found/kidnapped to host, more stars become available for spot duty, and the show goes on.

Throughout the whole movie there is, in fact, plenty for adults and children alike. The film is kiddish enough to convert young minds, and presents enough homages and plot depth to keep the adults entertained and smiling.

And that was The Muppets!

On Friday night, we got comfortable for New Year's Eve. As the reel began, this image flashed across the screen:

Well, holy crap. I excitedly squealed like a 28-year-old fanboy hipster being ironic, and was then relentlessly mocked for A) once again losing my mind for Anna Kendrick and B) recognizing Chace Crawford from Gossip Girl. Unfortunately, this was only a scene from the trailer for What to Expect When You're Expecting and the crapfest that is New Year's Eve had not yet begun.

Essentially a string of vignettes woven together by tenuous (at best) connections between the characters, New Year's Eve tells the stories of various New Yorkers' days on New Year's Eve. With the exception of Halle Berry's storyline - and sort of Hilary Swank's - the movie more or less comes with the moral of "Make sure you have someone to kiss at midnight". Even if it's someone you've just met. Or just kissed someone else. Or you have no intention of ever talking to again.

Wanna know how bad this movie is? Sofia Vergara plays, essentially, the same character she does in Modern Family, but receives extremely poor reviews for the role.

There is little to no significant character development, time seems to be mostly imaginary, the relationships between the characters are crammed onto the screen with a bulldozer, and even the gag reel at the end proved thoroughly uninspired.

Even the casting left much to be desired - an odd blend of the currently popular (Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele2), the Where Did They Dig Them Up? (Zac Efron and Michele Pfeiffer) and those that clearly just don't care anymore (Robert DeNiro and Berry).

That New Year's Eve topped Jonah Hill's The Sitter in box office haul this weekend is more of an indictment of the latter than it is a celebration of the former.

Go see The Muppets if you have to choose between these two. Or wait a week.

1 - Yes, I'm a dork, and have created a Scenetourage. It's called the Mark Saltzman Groupies. What?

2 - Who has a couple of nauseating solos

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