The Muppets, the most recent big-screen presentation of the beloved
characters, introduces a new home-video element that will make you want to
pause during the movie.
Included on the Blu-ray versions of the film, it's called Disney Intermission. When you pause The Muppets, instead of the image just freezing, various intermission segments appear with the Muppets performing little bits or introducing a bonus feature like the blooper reel.
It does add some fun to the viewing, although it's something of a distraction as well. While watching The Muppets, I kept thinking about pausing it, to see what else the intermissions had to offer. So it may be best to watch the movie all the way through at least once before dipping into that particular feature.
The movie marks the lovable Jim Henson characters' return to big screens after a decade's absence. It has considerable charms, especially near the end when it settles into a hilarious revisiting of the classic Muppet Show format, but is a bit slow in other spots as it tries to tell a story and place the Muppets in chronological context.
Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the movie) plays Gary, a man whose brother Walter is a Muppet (voiced by Peter Linz). Walter loves the Muppets, so when Gary takes his fiancee Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles, Walter comes along to see the famous Muppet theater and studios. But the studios have fallen on hard times, the Muppet vogue seemingly past, and the land is about to be sold to an evil oil baron (Chris Cooper).
Gary, Mary and Walter set out to reunite the Muppets to save the studio; as the old group gathers, they resolve to put on a show. Naturally, it does not go as easily as they hoped. But there can't be an unhappy ending for these Muppets!
The film draws on the old Muppet characters and conventions -- including lots of celebrity cameos, and songs like the Oscar-winning Man or Muppet, written by Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie. Other musical highlights include Cooper's rapping, a barbershop-style Smells Like Teen Spirit and chickens performing Forget You.
I expected better -- and it proved to be a modest performer at the box office -- but the bar is pretty high when it comes to the Muppets. This is well suited for home viewing, because you can skip the draggy spots and revisit the funnier bits.
In addition to a digital download and on-demand release, Disney is offering the movie in several packages. The three-disc "Wocka Wocka Value Pack" ($49.99) includes the Blu-ray, standard DVD, digital copy and, via digital download, the soundtrack. Among the extras in that set are bloopers, a making-of piece, the full-length version of Cooper's rap (including the explanation of why he hates the Muppets), deleted scenes, audio commentary a series of funny trailers spoofing other movies' trailers -- and eventually spoofing The Muppets' spoofing. The three discs are in a package with two disc holders, the Blu-ray on one side and the DVD on the other, with the digital-copy disc behind the DVD.
A two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo ($39.99) includes the bloopers, deleted scenes, making-of and other pieces -- but not the trailers, digital copy or the soundtrack download. There are also single-disc sets, one with the soundtrack card added ($34.99) and one without ($29.99); both have the blooper reel.
If you are looking for more family viewing, the animated-with-live-action movie Hop arrives on Friday from Universal: $39.98 for a Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo; $34.98 for DVD/digital package and $29.98 for the standard DVD alone. The movie tells the intersecting stories of E.B., a rabbit who is next in line to be the Easter Bunny, and Fred O'Hare (James Marsden), a slacker whose greatest moment was briefly seeing the Easter Bunny in action when he was a child.
The movie's promotion pushes it as being from the makers of the mega-hit Despicable Me, but its story is less interesting than that of Despicable (and when you get down to it, I preferred Megamind to Despicable anyway). Marsden also doesn't seem to have a firm grip on talking to animated characters. But the images in Hop are for the most part terrific; I was wowed by the earliest sequences.
Extras include a new mini-movie and other elements.
Turning to more adult fare, Tuesday brings Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Universal, $34.98 in Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo, $29.98 standard DVD), which has a fine performance by Gary Oldman as the spy George Smiley trying to find a mole in British intelligence. Based on the novel by John le Carre, the movie can't fit all the book's twists and turns and at times seems to jump abruptly through events. You might want to acquire the TV version of Tinker Tailor, with Alec Guinness as Smiley, for comparison; it is on DVD now, from Acorn Media, with the Blu-ray version coming April 24. There were times in Oldman's performance when I was sure he was paying sly vocal tribute to Guinness.
And, as long as we're making comparisons, you could take the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, currently on DVD and Blu-ray, and compare it with Tuesday's release of the English-language version (Sony, $40.99 in Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo, $30.99 DVD). David Fincher directed the latter, with Rooney Mara starring, and it's an admirable adaptation of Stieg Larsson's book. It's especially interesting to look at Mara versus Noomi Rapace in the earlier film; both performances dazzle, but in different ways.
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