Like any sane person who came out of The Muppets, I ended up singing the infectiously unforgettable line ‘I got everything that I nee-eed right in-front o-me’ on the streetcar home. Hats off to Bret McKenzie. But the sugar rush ended because of three grating yet forgivable flaws.
First is vintage store-clad (this is a good thing) Mary (Amy Adams), Gary’s (Jason Segel) girlfriend who si frustrated by her man’s undivided attention towards his Muppets-loving Muppet brother, Walter. Adams sings and dances feverishly, only bringing half of the joy that her scene partners, both human and Muppet, effortlessly produce. She’s more convincing when she’s playing against type than she is as an adorable love interest. It’s not entirely her fault, her face seemingly colourless and lit sloppily. She’s also one of three major female characters who, in a script co-written by Segel, are ‘attention seeking shrews’ ‘distracting men from work.’ An Oscar-nominated actress can’t save badly written characters like hers.
Chris Cooper rapping made me wince in my seat. And the characters’ self-awareness after singing their songs are a bit distracting.
And can I declare a fatwa against the premise in movies that the world is ‘cynical?’ Sure, as the movie shows, broken relationships and sketchy characters and greedy oilmen like Tex Richman (Cooper) and power-hungry executives like Veronica (Rashida Jones) do exist. But the world has its equal share of revisionist, retro-living, overgrown children. Our decade-long obsession for cute old anthropomorphic things is the reason Pixar gets awards. Cute is definitely why this movie exists.
James Bobin‘s movie epitomizes cute with the other Muppets whom this unconventional family is trying to reunite. The group find themselves on a mission to stop Richman from destroying the Muppet studio to build an oil well. Richman also wants to acquire the Muppets name to skew the well-known brand from its original content and form. Sound familiar?
The joyful aura is good enough to sustain itself for most of the movie. Despite the mushy middle, let’s remind ourselves that the movie begins with the postwar nostalgia of Smalltown, USA and we fell for it. Then we see the physical comedy, signature Muppets flailing, celebrity cameos like Emily Blunt and Leslie Feist and loved it. Then it sets up Gonzo as Chekhov’s gun and we smiled. And Kermit, the movie’s undisputed star, sings the old tunes as well as new songs and we cried and we loved the movie a bit more. 3.5/5
- Amy Adams on filming The Muppets: ‘It took a lot of energy’ (arts.nationalpost.com)
I’ll tell you first about The Film Experience, where my DVD review of George Nolfi‘s The Adjustment Bureau is. It’s just about adjuster Harry’s (Anthony Mackie) struggle as it is protagonist David’s (Matt Damon), as David tries to defeat the adjusters from stopping the latter to stay with his one true love Elise (Emily Blunt), and they run around NYC, hands together. Link’s below.
Speaking of a movie where people run around a big city, I might have just written the whitest review for Joe Cornish’s Attack The Block ever. Here I am talking about the symbolism, treating the movie like a 19th century novel. I wonder if other online film critics have moved into the neighborhoods like ones I grew up in, ones where gang fights happen, making them go like ‘believe,’ ‘allow it!’ and ‘MERCK!’ But then I’ve always been the most square boy in the block. And I come from the same people that birthed the JabbaWockeeZ. Oh where oh where did my swag go? Anyway, when Basement Jaxx hits the right notes and the kids in the hoods of South London blow up that first alien, that’s where the fun begins. I hope you have fun watching the movie – after its early festival and UK release, it’s out in selected cities in North America like LA, New York, Seattle and Toronto. Image for Attack the Block from Anomalous Material, where my review is. Bitch.
- DVDs. The greatest film I… (thefilmexperience.net)
My English teacher in high school pretty much said that you can write a unifying topic about any two texts. I’ve used that spirit in this blog, and it’s been useful while watching both “The Young Victoria, out on DVD last Tuesday, and “Alice in Wonderland.” My focus is not on how good they are. “Young Victoria” is passable and “Alice in Wonderland” sucks donkey. I thought at first that the Queen Mother documentary and my kooky mind was the only thing both movies had in common but boy was I wrong.
On the surface, both movies are about girl power. My basic knowledge of the titular “Young Victoria” was her older self, she was the most powerful woman in the world but is crippled by mourning her husband’s death. What the film shows is a girl (Emily Blunt) who, like many renowned rulers, have no or have lost her siblings and cousins. It also shows her fighting off her stepfather Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) who wants her to sign her regency away to him in what could have been her deathbed. It’s a typical female royal narrative about having to deal with the men who try to influence her, the movie thankfully incorporating treaties and negotiations and letter writing culture that Royal history was full of. Nonetheless, the men break down either through her own strength or through fortunate circumstances. She forges political partnerships with men like William IV (Jim Broadbent), Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) and her husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend, our generation’s Omar Sharif).
Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” goes through the same things as Queen Victoria. She’s the daughter of a businessman who’s imaginative as he is – he wants to venture into other continents, she dreams of fantasy lands. Growing up (Mia Wasikowska, groomed as a pallid Gwyneth Paltrow), her mother and sister thinks of her good enough to marry into blue blooded English snots. If she even thinks about not marrying the aristocratic Hamish, her peers remind her of the delusional old maid Aunt Imogen. She storms out of her engagement party not defiantly but to chase a rabbit she can only see, hence out of a compulsion to regress into her childhood dreams. Going into the rabbit hole she falls on hard surfaces, gets scratched up by huge animals and gain the courage to meet her destiny and kill the Jabberwock.
The most interesting parts for me for both films were the last acts, since the emancipation of one results into the slavery of many.* We feel her empowerment when she snips at Prime Minister Peel about her ladies-in-waiting, but a bit uncomfortable when she has a shouting match with her husband about her ladies-in-waiting. Sure, both sides have their faults, but she asserts herself to him many times that she’s her Queen and he can only leave a room when he’s dismissed. They kiss and make up, and the title cards in the end show that Victoria births nine children who will rule the crowns of Britain, Germany, Russia, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Serbia, Greece and they forgot Denmark. Ironically, at least half of those monarchies still stand.
In “Alice in Wonderland” Alice stays true to her father’s mercantile leanings but now uses aristocratic influence to do something profitable. She refuses Hamish’s hand in marriage but has a business proposition in store for his father, Lord Ascot. Her father and Lord Ascot’s business has posts in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, but she presents the opportunity to tap into China and its products. Ambition wins him over, and she gets her ships. In a way China becomes her wonderland – they do have tea after all. And as we historically know, China really loved every minute of that.
We can’t, however, show our disdain towards womanhood for heralding English political and economic imperialism, since men just have a hand in shaping both characters. “Young Victoria” implies that Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, takes credit for making many crowns in Europe bear the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Victoria and Albert can be either lying to themselves or actually have made an honest, loving relationship out of a marriage strategized by those above her. “Alice in Wonderland” has a bit sinister – some may call it honest – portrayal of a man behind the great woman. Alice maybe seen as her father’s daughter. Lord Ascot notices the look in her eyes that eerily reminds him of her father, but goes ahead and follows her whims anyway. Both women are figureheads in both an active or passive definition still makes me uncomfortable for a few seconds.
*I know that I’m treading murky waters here, and I’m blaming my red-eye working habits and thumping headache/sinuses if I get un-PC).