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Posts Tagged ‘The Great Muppet Caper’
SYNOPSIS: The story picks up one second after the last one ended. Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang are on Hollywood Boulevard after their big comeback, wondering what to do next. A meeting with talent agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) seems to provide an answer. Against Kermit’s best judgment the Muppets accept Badguy’s offer of a European tour to open in “the world capitol of comedy, Berlin, Germany.” What they don’t know is that Badguy is an associate of Constantine, the planet’s most notorious criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit. The evil plan is to replace Kermit with Constantine, and use the Muppets as a cover for an ingenious plan to steal the Crown Jewels.
Richard: 3 Stars
Steve: 3 Stars
Richard: Steve, the new film from Jim Henson’s felt and fur creations is being billed as a sequel to the 2011 Jason Segel Muppets film, but it isn’t really. It’s more a return to the Muppet movies of old, packed to the gills with show biz in jokes, puns, songs and even a Swedish Chef homage to Ingmar Bergman. It’s more akin to The Great Muppet Caper than the most recent movie. Segel’s Muppet movie played heartstrings like Eric Clapton strums the blues, “Muppets Most Wanted” has more of an edge. Well, as much of an edge as a movie starring Kermit and Miss Piggy could have. Did you sense that?
Steve: I don’t know if edge is quite the word I’d use to describe it. It’s definitely got darker elements but unfortunately, the gimmicky plot of replacing Kermit with an evil doppelganger felt forced and less natural than Segel’s earnest version. Of course even the filmmakers were aware of that and smartly addressed the impossible expectation of sequels in the opening number. That kind of self-consciousness worked better in the last movie but I certainly thought the songs in Muppets Most Wanted surpassed the 2011 film. We even get to hear Ricky Gervais sing!
RC: I’m not sure I agree. The human characters—notably Gervais, Tina Fey as Nadya, a lusty Russian prison guard and Ty Burrell as an outrageous Interpol agent—are just as broad as the puppets which provides some laughs, but the emotional impact is blunted. To place it in an old Hollywood context, it’s more the slapstick of Abbott and Costello than the restrained, sweet comedy of Charlie Chaplin. I liked Segel’s take on the sweetness of the Muppets, but having said that, this movie made me laugh.
SG: It’s true. It is fairly funny all the way through. It’s probably slightly unfair to measure this film against its predecessors anyhow – even if it does lack some of the pure warmth of Segel’s. And it was fun to see all the talent showing up in clever cameo appearances – especially Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo as prisoners-turned-aspiring showmen. However, even the sheer bulk of celebrities feels slightly distracting. They should just let the Muppets do the work.
RC: I agree. The Muppets bring a good deal of goodwill with them and the movie shines brighter as a result. It’s hard not to giggle at the gags but an exchange between Fozzie and Walter hits a bit too close to an uncomfortable plot truth. “Looks like he’s planning some kind of heist bit,” Fozzie says of Constantine. “I hope not,” replies Walter, “they never work.” That’s a gag, this one works, but because of the Muppets, not because of the human stars.
SG: In the end, the fans that are going to pay to see Muppets Most Wanted will already have a good idea what they’re in for. Besides, as that aforementioned opening musical number states, “everyone knows the sequel’s not quite as good.”
When The Muppet Movie was released in 1979 the Muppet Show Fan Club pointed out the differences between the movie and the puppet’s popular television show.
“If you think it’s a film version of The Muppet Show, you’re in for a surprise.
For one thing, it doesn’t take place in the theatre. The Muppet Movie is set in the real world — it’s like waiting in line at a gas station and looking up to find Fozzie and Kermit driving the next car over.”
In the subsequent seven theatrical Muppet movies that magic has been maintained, but the methods have changed over the years. In 2011’s The Muppet Movie all the puppets were real, but the way they were filmed changed. To give the puppets a full range of movement the puppeteers — or Muppeteers as they prefer to be called — were often in full view of the camera and digitally removed in post production.
“We removed the puppeteers later,” said visual effects artist Max Ivins, “so it gave the puppeteers a lot more freedom in that they didn’t have to hide from the camera to do everything.” It’s a technique used in Muppets Most Wanted, which sees the furry and felt puppets get into trouble on a world tour when it turns out that Kermit’s doppelgänger is the world’s number one criminal. Co-starring with the Muppets is Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey. In the years before computer generated imagery, however, Muppeteers hidden from view manipulated all the puppets. And it wasn’t always so comfortable.
Everyone remembers Kermit sitting on a log, playing his banjo, in the middle of a swamp in The Muppet Movie, but did you know that Jim Henson, Kermit’s creator and operator until 1990, was under water for the five days it took to shoot the scene?
According to the Muppet Fan Club he was wedged into a metal tube “under the water, under the log, under the Frog” while hooked up with an air hose, a monitor and a rubber sleeve which allowed him to manipulate the puppet.
Frank Oz was also submerged for Miss Piggy’s water ballet scene in The Great Muppet Caper. “I was under the water for a week,” he says. “I had three days of scuba training and then down I went.” Finally, almost every Muppet movie features Kermit riding a bicycle. How did they do it in the early days? Director James Frawley jokes, “I put him on a three-wheeler until he got his balance, and then I put him on the two-wheeler.”
In fact, the effect was achieved by intercutting long shots using a Kermit marionette and close-ups with a hand puppet operated by Henson who rode along with the bike on a low-rolling dolly.