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Entries in Tina Fey (3)

Friday
Mar212014

Muppets Most Wanted

The Muppets are some of the most endearing pop culture icons in history. They’re just so darn lovable that even in their most kid-centric fare, there’s usually enough in there to entertain the adults, especially now. Many adults today grew up with the Muppets and, thanks to their big time resurgence in 2011’s succinctly titled “The Muppets,” they’re able to share the joy they experienced as children with their very own young ones. I imagine there’s nothing more pleasing than watching your child as he or she stares up at that screen in awe at something you too once found so magical. It’s here where the new film, “Muppets Most Wanted,” succeeds. Whereas “The Muppets” leaned heavily on nostalgia, to the point where it could be argued that adults would get more out of it than kids, this film is strongly focused on the tykes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though it admittedly comes as a disappointment following its strong predecessor. Still, “Muppets Most Wanted” is charming and ridiculous in all the right ways.

The film takes place immediately after the first one. The story has wrapped and the Muppets wonder what they’re going to do next; that is until they see the cameras still lingering around. This must mean, they surmise, that they’re doing a sequel. After a hilarious opening number about sequels (and how they’re never quite as good as the original), they’re off on their next adventure with Dominic Badguy (whose last name means “Good Man” in French), played by Ricky Gervais. He claims to be a tour manager and agrees to jet them around the world to perform. However, he’s actually in cahoots with Constantine, “the world’s most dangerous frog” who uses their tour as a cover to commit crime. Before Kermit knows it, Constantine takes his place, given that they look almost exactly alike, while he rots away in a Russian prison run by Nadya (Tina Fey).

The story in “Muppets Most Wanted” isn’t great and it certainly doesn’t contain the meaning or emotion its predecessor had in spades. But while this won’t touch you the way “The Muppets” did, it will make you smile. And if you’re familiar with famous films, you’ll find even more to enjoy, with references to movies like Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” thrown for fun. The best moments in the film, however, come from its self-awareness, like with its aforementioned jabs at sequels despite being a sequel itself (the eighth one, to be exact, as Scooter points out) or with the gang’s quick narrative visit to “Plotpointburg.”

“Muppets Most Wanted” doesn’t stop there in its skewering of screenplay crutches or pop culture; even the various celebrities who appear as cameos don’t mind being poked fun of, like when pop star Usher shows up as, you guessed it, an usher. While most of these cameos are too good to spoil here, it goes without saying that the film, as with most Muppets productions, is filled to the brim with recognizable stars in bit parts that they would never accept for anything else. That’s just simply how desirable it is to be in a Muppets movie.

The film falters, however, when it gets around to its musical numbers. You won’t find a “Rainbow Connection” here, or even a catchy little ditty like “Life’s a Happy Song” from the last film. Aside from the opening number, not a single song is memorable, and even that opening song works more due to its self-referential humor than it does its actual musical composition. “Muppets Most Wanted” isn’t as light on its feet as previous films and a few solid musical numbers would have gone a long way towards curing that sense of boredom that occasionally sets in.

Yet “Muppets Most Wanted” is still entertaining. Despite a few adult jokes, this one is mostly for the kids, and that’s totally fine. Kids need the Muppets, a ragtag group of friends who love and accept each other, where no two are alike and whose differences aren’t highlighted, but nevertheless make them who they are. The Muppets have always been inclusive and their enthusiasm is infectious. This newest film is silly and has a goofy story (more so than usual), but that’s part of its charm and while you won’t be blown away, you’ll still walk out with a happy grin on your face.

Muppets Most Wanted receives 3.5/5

Friday
Nov052010

Megamind

DreamWorks Animation is one of the most hit-and-miss production studios in Hollywood. When you sit down for one of their movies, you never know whether you’re going to get garbage or quality. Sometimes you’ll get a fun, funny, smart adventure like Shrek or Monsters vs. Aliens and other times you’ll get a vapid, deadening nothing of a film like Bee Movie or Madagascar. Their last effort, How to Train Your Dragon, was more like the former. It was their best and most mature film to date and it had many critics believing that Pixar now had some serious competition in DreamWorks. Those critics may be changing their tune after Megamind.

The movie begins as an homage to (or a rip-off of—I can’t decide which) Superman: The Movie. Megamind’s (Will Ferrell) planet is crumbling and his parents have decided to blast him off towards Earth before they all perish. However, a family on a neighboring planet has done the same thing with their child, a kid who will grow up to be known as Metro Man (Brad Pitt). To Megamind, it seemed like he was always destined for evil. Whereas Metro Man landed at the front steps of a wealthy, classy family, he landed in the middle of the Metro City jail and learned how to be bad. Now he has a rivalry with Metro Man and is determined to defeat him no matter what.

Megamind is a more comedic version of Superman in animated form. It makes no effort to hide the fact that it’s borrowing liberally from that storied franchise, complete with the beautiful Lois Lane like reporter named Roxanne (Tina Fey), who has been kidnapped by Megamind more times than she can count. They even make Metro Man a Christ-like figure, a comparison made subtly in Superman, but harshly brought forward here by giving him the ability to walk on water.

Oddly enough, this is the stuff that works best. The spoof aspect of superhero tropes and traditions is well thought out and quite funny. The knowing references to the witty banter that occurs between a hero and his arch-nemesis during battle are clever, but there’s simply not enough of it.

What the rest of the film resorts to are worn down slapstick gags and idiotic one-liners that I imagine will appeal mostly to the younger ones in the audience. The voice talent is wasted with this silly material and they do little to make the experience worthwhile, with the exception of one particularly funny bit where Will Ferrell mimics Marlon Brando. The rest of the time, he’s mispronouncing words for no apparent reason and raising his voice so we are aware that it is indeed him.

In fact, the funniest parts of the movie are the sight gags, like an Obama-esque poster of Megamind as he rules over the city that says “No You Can’t” and a quick nod towards the original Donkey Kong game, which is a testament to the talented animators at DreamWorks. The problem with this movie is not the animation. It’s the lack of creativity and bland writing. That was the case for many of DreamWorks Animation's previous movies. Such is the case with Megamind.

Compared to How to Train Your Dragon or pretty much any Pixar movie, Megamind is weak. Whereas those movies reached out to the adults, this one is for the kids. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering how few choices there are for children at the movies these days, it’s also what keeps it from reaching its full potential. The basic messages about good and evil and learning from your mistakes are noble, but they offer nothing adults don’t already know. Although I don’t judge movies on whether or not they’ll work for their intended audience, I suspect Megamind will, but it didn’t for me.

Megamind receives 1.5/5

Friday
Apr092010

Date Night

What do you get when you combine the two hottest actors working on the two funniest sitcoms on television? You hope for the answer to that question to be more than a reluctant shrug, but here we are. Combining Steve Carell and Tina Fey should make for a hilarious and fun adventure, but the material in Date Night simply isn't there and doesn't accommodate their talents.

Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple who go about their humdrum lives repeating the same menial tasks daily. They spend their days at work and come home to two young children who occupy their lives at night. Their sex life is basically non-existent, though they try to keep things fresh by having a date night every so often. After they learn that their two best friends are going to get a divorce, they decide to make their next date night extra special and travel to New York for an evening at a fancy restaurant. However, they didn't call in a reservation beforehand and their chances of getting a table are slim. Fortunately for them, a couple by the name of Triplehorn hasn't shown up for their reservations, so the Fosters pretend to be them and take their table. What happens next is less fortunate. Two thugs show up claiming that they have stolen a prized possession from them and want it back. It's a case of mistaken identity and the Foster's find themselves in more trouble than they could imagine.

The premise of a couple seeking excitement only to run into more excitement than they bargained for is nothing new in the world of cinema. In fact, it's been played out by this point. Date Night is merely another blip on the radar of the tired subgenre, featuring mediocre writing and a ridiculous plot that nobody could take seriously. But the dream pair-up of Carell and Fey, two of the funniest people working in Hollywood today, do more than enough to salvage it. This movie works because of them. Without them, it fails.

Their chemistry together--romantic and comedic--is second to none. Their witty banter back and forth is a blast to listen to and they are capable of taking jokes that really aren't that funny and making them so. Considering how hilarious their two shows, The Office and 30 Rock, are, it's shocking how long it took someone to realize how perfect they would be together on the big screen.

Still, this movie is merely tolerable, far from what a movie starring the two should be. Where's the heart? Where's the emotion? Date Night tries to include some, but the outlandish situations the two find themselves in don't lend well to emotion. When you have Carell climbing onto the front of a speeding car and diving into another one, you start to get too far away from reality and the heartfelt conversations start to feel kind of pointless.

What else is there to say, really? Humor is subjective and opinions on the movie will surely be split. I'm not even completely sure how I feel about it. It's one of those rare films that I walked out of and didn't feel like discussing or analyzing. I only wanted to get home so I could write this and get it out of my mind. I'll revisit it one day just to spend more time with the charismatic actors, but the mediocrity of the movie may make it a long before that happens.

Date Night receives 2.5/5