Monday Morning Critic – Amy Adams, Jason Segel and The Muppets, Michael Douglas and Romancing the Stone

Every Monday morning, Inside Pulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

When it comes to many films, I don’t tend to want to run multiple reviews if my and at least one other opinion are fairly the same. Sometimes it happens between Travis and I, who oddly enough have similar tastes in film, but usually not on purpose. Most times there are different points to be made about a film that warrant discussion, I think, or at least a mention. And my thoughts on The Muppets were nearly identical to Travis’s, thus I didn’t feel the urge to chime in. We all like and loathe films for different reasons and sometimes you can like them for differing reasons. But the one thing I think nearly everyone liked The Muppets for was one thing.

That it was as much fun to view as it was for Amy Adams, Jason Segel and crew to make.

It’s the one thing that seems to be universally prevalent in any review I’ve read from someone that has an opinion worth reading. Some disguise it more than others but there’s one thing about the film that I don’t think people can deny when watching it. That for 90 minutes, you could watch a movie with your kid and know exactly how and why they were laughing because you got it in the same exact way they did.

For the slight controversy the film had due to Frank Oz and crew not supplying the voices, as well as some of the gags being a bit more grownup than the ‘70s family-friendly shtick that the crew became famous for, The Muppets did exactly what it meant to do: remind us that true nostalgia can be a beautiful thing. And that character development can be powerful, too. The thing that everyone seems to be forgetting about The Muppets film, including those who had problems with the film’s story, is one thing: that nothing is static in life.

It’s the one thing I loved about the film: it gave us a sense of how Jim Henson’s characters can drift apart. People tend to think of the Muppets as being one creation involving multiple characters for one purpose, of course, and as such seeing them having to reunite probably bugged plenty of people. But that’s the wrong perception, I think, because they ought to be viewed more as how Jim Henson would’ve purposed them: as a comedy troupe of various character types. When you think of it like that the film’s storyline actually helps the narrative. They’re a rock band that broke up, with all the players leaving to various degrees of success.

You have the leader of the group in Kermit who still holds on to a bit of the past. He’s a recluse, of course, but he doesn’t want to let go of the whole Muppet experience by doing something else. Axel Rose never did anything but be the lead singer of Guns ‘n’ Roses if you need a parallel.

You have a supporting character like Gonzo doing what plenty of supporting characters do: outshine their counterparts once they move on. Phil Collins was just the drummer of Genesis then led that band to the highest point they ever had, then leaving them to become even bigger than Genesis had ever been.

Fozzy Bear is the other supporting character; never able to let go of being Fozzy Bear and stooping to a third rate cover band in Reno, Nevada, to keep up the thrill. After the plane crash guys from Lynyrd Skynyrd kept that band together and they keep playing to this day. I think there’s maybe one guy left from the original band still in the lineup; one imagines that he just let go of being the keyboardist (or whatever) like Fozzy Bear still needs to be the comedic sidekick to a frog and a pig.

From a story-telling perspective this is what engaged me the most. The Muppets gave us nostalgia but also opted to try and do something new and different in terms of plot. It could’ve been easy to revamp or reboot the series without acknowledging that the time for the Muppets to be on top of the pop culture food chain is over. But I have to give Jason Segel credit: he wanted to tell a story about the redemptive power of laughter and that sometimes the past has the answers to problems in the present.

If it’d been Segel doing his best to relive that singular moment in time when the television show was popular, or recreate any of the movies, I’d have been fairly disappointed despite all the nostalgia. It’s why I never wanted to see The Smurfs, Yogi Bear or any of the nostalgia trips masquerading as films. They were cash-ins to try and beat some more money out of cinema goers. They were designed not out of an attempt to tell something new or interesting with characters but to try and take characters and cash in on them by re-introducing them to a new generation.

It’d be easy to design a movie purely to sell Kermit and Miss Piggy dolls to another generation of children.

Instead we got a movie that was fun from people who had a great time doing it. In a year where the lows of cinema keep finding a way to reach down further, it’s nice to see that for once nostalgia wasn’t the sole reason to reach back into the past.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Romancing the Stone

A long time ago Michael Douglas wasn’t seen as a leading man and Robert Zemeckis used to work with live action. In what would be the film that established the former as a leading man seemingly overnight, and gave the latter the ability to direct Back to the Future and likened to the next Spielberg, Romancing the Stone became an instant classic (for lack of a better word) of the decade of excess: the ‘80s.

It has a fairly simple premise. A romance novelist (Kathleen Turner) is lured to South America. Chased by a bunch of people who want her treasure map, she relies on a crazy gun for hire type (Douglas) to try and save her sister and retrieve a treasure for the ages. Throw in Danny DeVito as a wacky smuggler and you have the ingredients of a forgotten classic that could only exist in the ‘80s.

Rumored to be remade with Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, but not put into production after a television series was debated as well, Romancing the Stone had a sequel inJewel of the Nile that didn’t perform as well as this film did and led to War of the Roses because of one main thing that carries the film: chemistry.

Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas have a remarkable level of chemistry that just radiates off the screen. There’s a reason why they set the bar for this aspect in action/adventure films and it’s because it takes a strong film and makes it insanely enjoyable.

Strong recommendation

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

There isn’t anything with a wide release scheduled for this weekend, which is odd because you’d think someone would expand to a wide screen or have the weekend to have a slightly inflated box office gross because of the newness factor. You’d think of the films that got pushed into January 2012 from this year, like Haywire, or a slight comedy like A Thousand Words, would take the weekend and just own it.

Shame – Michael Fassbender is a sex addict in New York City. His sister (Cary Mulligan) opts to visit and get completely naked, too, apparently. In limited release this week.

See It – Fassbender is being touted as an Oscar candidate for this film and slowly but surely this year he’s been strong in Jane Eyre and is getting rave reviews in A Dangerous Method. And it has Cary Mulligan getting naked and apparently in a brilliant performance to boot; I’m curious how it gets handled. My guess is it’ll be classy but I’m curious if they trash it up a bit; it is an NC-17 film and thus you can go wild in that aspect.

Sleeping Beauty (2011) – Emily Browning signs up for a sleeping experiment where she gets drilled by old dudes. In limited release.

See It – This has been getting wild reviews so far ranging from brilliant to god-awful. My guess is that it’s somewhere in the middle leaning upwards based on the trailer.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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