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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Muppets Most Wanted & Divergent

Dearest Blog, having force-fed myself a Serious Grownup Movie last weekend, this week it was back to my usual fare with Muppets Most Wanted and Divergent.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know or have guessed from the trailers.
Since my tolerance for little kids is marginally lower than my tolerance for teenagers, I got Muppets Most Wanted out of the way first.

Fresh off their reunion show and against Kermit's better judgment, a new manager (Ricky Gervais) convinces the Muppets to go on a world tour, but a sold-out European run and a unusually agreeable Kermit may not be the good news they seem.

Dear reader(s), though I try not to read anyone else's reviews before I've written mine, living online as I do, I can't help but see the occasional headline or comment. The general consensus on Muppets Most Wanted seems to be that it's good, but not as good as 2011's The Muppets. Guess I'm once again in the minority, for as much as I loved The Muppets, I think Muppets Most Wanted is even better.
Muppets Most Wanted picks up, literally, where The Muppets left off, lingering just long enough to earn a few laughs with some obvious-but-still-funny sequel jokes. Once it gets rolling, the caper is amusing and never drags, with musical numbers staged at the Siberian gulag providing the best comic moments.

As we've come to expect, Muppets Most Wanted is littered with cameos from celebs and pseudo-celebs, and I shan't name them lest I spoil it for those who want to be surprised. Since I imagine everyone knows who stars in the movie, I can say that Gervais, Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell are in top form, though I find it a little offensive that they enjoy billing over the folks who provide Muppet voices--the movie's real stars. If I have one complaint that isn't really a complaint, it's that a little too much of Muppets Most Wanted may be aimed over the heads of the young target audience; it's undoubtedly a "kids' movie," but I think the adults might actually enjoy it more.

Muppets Most Wanted runs 112 minutes and is rated PG for "some mild action."
Like its predecessors, Muppets Most Wanted is a terrific family film full of music, laughs, and thoroughly entertaining cameos.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Muppets Most Wanted gets seven and a half.

Closing yesterday's docket was the young adult thriller Divergent.

Survivors of an apocalyptic event are divided into factions, based on their personality types. When a young girl discovers she's a Divergent--one of those who fit with no one type and who are considered a threat to the new world order--she struggles for survival within the faction she's chosen.

Dear Blog, I'm nothing if not painfully honest, so if I'm going to criticize something, I'm also going to admit when that criticism might just be due to the fact that said "something" isn't made with me in mind. Not saying it's impossible for someone outside the target audience to enjoy a movie (see: Muppets Most Wanted, above), but being almost 48 years old, I enjoyed Grudge Match a helluva lot more than I enjoyed Divergent, which may not be entirely Divergent's fault. Then again...

We'll get the obvious out of the way first: clearing the two-hour threshold by a good 20 minutes, Divergent is too damn long and easily could have been trimmed by 30 minutes without losing anything of consequence. Making the obligatory comparisons: the story is neither as good as The Hunger Games nor as painfully bad as Twilight. Shailene Woodley is no Jennifer Lawrence, either.

The supporting cast boasts some notable names--Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet, Mekhi Phifer, Maggie Q, and the always magnificent Ray Stevenson--but they seem to have neither the opportunity nor the inclination to distinguish the movie from the current glut of ho-hum young adult fiction. Divergent features broadly-drawn characters and insipid dialogue by the bucketful, and mistakes peripheral character deaths for heartbreaking plot twists.

By now, dear reader(s), you may be asking, "So why did you bother seeing this, anyway?" That question I can answer in two words: Theo James. Yep, I've been nursing a scorching crush ever since he had fatal sex with Lady Mary Crawley in the first season of Downton Abbey and I had to overturn heaven and earth to find out who he was. I hoped he'd be a big deal someday, and, if I wished it'd be in something better than this, well, he's young yet, eh? Divergent doesn't place any particular strain on his acting skills, but I can confidently say I would have been kinda bored with someone I liked less in the male lead. As it stands, James has enough screentime to make Divergent more than worth the price of admission.

Divergent clocks in at a bloated 139 minutes and is rated PG13 for "intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some sensuality."

A so-so movie that would have benefitted greatly from a shorter runtime, Divergent may have teens hanging on its every minute, but the rest of us are bound to find it considerably less thrilling.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Divergent gets four and a half.

Until next time...

Oh, don't pretend like YOU wouldn't sit through a so-so movie for this!

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