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 In fact, he’s been replaced by an impostor; the master criminal Constantine who happens to look exactly like Kermit, with a mole on his upper lip being the only discerning feature (but a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: Butter (2011)

butter-movie-posterHere are the facts; this movie has Olivia Wilde (who plays Quorra from Tron: Legacy), Jennifer Garner (Elektra from the film of the same name and Daredevil), Ty Burrell (a guy that’s in The Incredible HulkDawn of the Dead (2004) and does the voice of Captain Marvel in The Super Hero Squad Show), Alicia Silverstone (played Batgirl in Batman and Robin) and Hugh Jackman (that’s Wolverine from all those X-films – you may have heard of him?). Wow, incredible. What a heroic cast! This movie is going to be amazing. But wait, what’s it called… Butter? And it’s about? …people who carve butter. Hmmm… OK. Let’s give it a shot anyway.

Set in Iowa, this is a story about country town people in and around the culture of butter carving. Coming from Australia, I didn’t know this was a thing. Upon asking an American friend about it, apparently it’s as big a deal as it is portrayed in the film. Well there you go.

Bob (Ty Burrell) is the reigning champion of butter carving. It’s all he’s ever really been passionate about but when the powers-that-be suggest that maybe it’s time he moved over and gave someone else a go, he’s easy-going about it and not that fussed. His wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) however, takes this a little harder as she’s been riding the coat-tails of his success on the social ladder and if she’s not the wife of a champion, she’s nothing.

After an argument about this with Laura, Bob storms out to vent 15 or so years of frustration by getting drunk and going to the strippers. This is where we meet Brooke (Wilde) who picks him up for sex. In his car taking care of business, they are quite rudely interrupted by Laura who drives her car into them.Butter_Movie_i06Caught out, Bob tries to smooth things over and decides to support Laura in her attempt to be the next Butter carving champion. She turns out to be pretty good and it would be in the bag for her if not for a promising young foster girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who’s taken an interest in the sport and gives Laura a run for her money.

It’s an interesting slice-of-life comedy that comments on middle American values and politics. It’s also worth 90 minutes of your time. Check it out.