Reviewed: Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Muppets-Most-Wanted-PosterThe Muppets have been around since forever. Like many, I grew up watching and loving all things Henson on screen. On TV there was Sesame Street, The Storyteller and re-runs of The Muppet show. Film-wise there was The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and of course, the Star Wars films.

There’s an art to conveying convincing puppet characters and the Henson crew are masters. Perhaps this is the reason for the longevity of the Muppets because honestly, they’re kind of lame. The jokes are often well-worn and predictable with a vaudeville quality that is by far past its use by date for a modern audience – and yet it still works.

Retrospectively it’s possible to divide the Muppet films into three distinct phases. The first commenced in 1979 with The Muppet Movie, the second in 1992 with The Muppet Christmas Carol (the first post-Jim Henson film), and the third in 2011 with Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s energetic take on the franchise. That 2011 film The Muppets (directed by James Bobin) brought these out-of-time characters kicking and screaming into the 21st century and the results were well-received. So much so, that it was granted a sequel and here it is: this film here.

Muppets Most Wanted picks up right where the first one left off and continues the story of the Muppets bringing their insane brand of variety show to the world. With the help of Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), they take the show on tour but something’s not quite right. Since their stopover in Russia – Kermit’s not been himself. In fact, he’s been replaced by an impostor; the master criminal Constantine who happens to look exactly like Kermit, with a mole on his upper lip being the only discerning feature (but a little make-up will take care of that).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While the rest of the Muppets continue their world tour, Kermit has been sent to the Gulag and must deal with the harsh conditions of prison life as well as the even harsher prison guard Nadya (Tina Fey).

Meanwhile, international detectives Sam Eagle and John Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) are on the scent of the impostor trying to unravel the truth behind the trail of crimes following the Muppet tour.

As a Muppet outing should, this film is filled with cameos from a host of celebrities and they all seem to be having a lot of fun doing it. Brett McKenzie is back as the man behind the music and if you’re a Flight of the Conchords fan, I highly recommend this (and the first film) just for that – the boy from New Zealand has done well for himself.

And last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that there are no fart shoes in this movie (a low point of the 2011 film). It’s a genuine return to form and tone of what the Muppets are about when it really works.

Reviewed: Date Night (2010)

date_night_ver3_xlgAfter a short yet intense bout of 30 Rock fever, I found myself in need of another Tina Fey fix which led me to revisit this older title featuring Steve Carrell and herself. It’s by no means an amazing film and to be honest, one of the best lines is an ad-libbed outtake which features in the closing credits but it is still a fun, family-friendly action comedy.

The story follows Phil (Carrell) and Claire (Fey), a moderately contented couple (with children) who find the daily grind that is family and work has pushed their love life into near non-existence. Sure they have regular “date nights” for themselves but the impetus to make them work have all but left the building.

The film drops into gear when they (against all logic and reason) choose to pursue this particular evening for all it’s worth – the way they would have done things back when they first met. They start with going to a fancy restaurant where unbeknownst to the pair; you can’t just waltz in and get a table. Without a reservation, they wait it out in the bar area in the vain hope that perhaps someone else will cancel.

It’s here that Phil takes advantage of a reservation no-show by claiming to be the name that has been called out so they can sit down to eat at this table reserved for someone else. Everything works out fine until they are approached by some serious types who escort them from the restaurant.

Thinking the serious types are management, our couple try to explain their way out of the situation but soon realise that it won’t happen as these guys are thugs who have mistaken them for the people who’s table they stole.Date-Night-Fey-Carrell_400Anyway, the danger and the plot escalates from there as the pair bumble their way from one dangerous situation to another with many cases of mistaken identity and Mark Wahlberg.

There’s a brilliant car chase involving JB Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and the action/comedy dynamic will keep you interested until the final scene which wraps itself up in a neatly crafted Hollywood script type way.

You don’t need to think with this one but sometimes you don’t want to. It’s a decent all-rounder for when you need to entertain a handful of people.