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Spout About: "The Muppets" Back in Action; Summer Movie Trivia; "Star Wars" Meets "Withnail & I"

By Christopher Campbell | Spout May 27, 2011 at 4:23AM

Spout About is a daily look at what people are discussing related to the films currently in theaters and the classics we're still talking about. Have another topic worth addressing? Let us know.
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Spout About is a daily look at what people are discussing related to the films currently in theaters and the classics we're still talking about. Have another topic worth addressing? Let us know.

Hopefully by now you've seen the fake-out trailer for "The Muppets," the one that teases a cheesy rom-com starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams and ends up looking kind of like a remake of "Looney Tunes: Back in Action." Okay, so maybe I'm the only one thinking of that 2003 box office failure. And many of you will likely see the comparison as something negative. But in spite of some problems, including the terrible product placement dependency, "Back in Action" is a pretty enjoyable film for true fans of the "Looney Tunes" franchise. It makes sense because the film is directed by one of the Warner Bros. characters' biggest fans: Joe Dante. Now are you seeing my point? "The Muppets" is similarly coming to us from an admitted huge fan of Jim Henson's creations (Segel), and it might just wind up likewise being a silly romp through homages to earlier, classic bits of that brand. I have no doubt we'll be seeing allusions to old Muppets works as well as hopefully something akin to "Back in Action"'s museum scene, which is the best Chuck Jones cartoon not made by Chuck Jones.

The only worry might lie in the human cast. That first teaser pretended the movie is primarily about Segel and Adams, but even after the reveal I'm not too convinced that this won't be like a fault of "Back in Action," which relied too much on stars Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman over the beloved cartoon characters. It probably won't feature anything as bad as the romantic duet from "The Muppet Christmas Carol," but centering on new characters nobody cares about is still potentially a mistake, and common to the worst Muppet movies. Chris Cooper's villain, meanwhile, seems fitting with the tradition of sleazes played by Charles Durning, Charles Grodin, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas, Jeffrey Tambor and, to a very minor extent, Dabney Coleman. And he won't likely parallel the silliness of Steve Martin's antagonist from "Back in Action," which was awfully over-the-top, out-tooning the toons.

As much as I enjoy "Back in Action," I have to admit I prefer Dante's work when he's merely paying tribute to Jones, et al., through otherwise unrelated works like "Gremlins," "Explorers" and his very "Looney Tunes"-inspired segment from "Twilight Zone: The Movie." Segel already showed us his Muppet love via the puppet "Dracula" musical in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Will we wish he stuck to such indirect homage or will he be good to the Henson legacy? We won't know until November 23 (one week after the 8th anniversary of "Back in Action").

Before hitting you up with today's links, here's a little piece of related trivia: Jim Henson's Creature Shop worked on "Back in Action," supplying physical stand-ins of Bugs Bunny and company as reference for the actors.

More notes, links and things up for discussion after the jump.

- I guess this "Fuzzy Pack" trailer is sort of parodying "The Hangover Part II"? I preferred this film when it was called "Green With Envy."

- Everyone is joking/complaining about "The Hangover Part II" being a carbon copy of "The Hangover," but Katey Rich at Cinema Blend points out this is both common and popular in a list of "5 Lessons The Hangover Part II Learned From Other Comedy Sequels." I somewhat disagree that "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" is that similar to "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" outside of the NPH cameo. They really ramped up the commentary on race and politics, for better or worse.

Lesson learned: Tweak just enough details to make it seem new.

I ripped The Hangover Part II apart for barely bothering to change the details from the first film and just presenting us the same thing we'd already seen and assuming that's what we wanted. Sadly, box office history suggests that's exactly what we want. Both the Harold & Kumar and American Pie sequels don't just lift the same basic structure from the first film, but repeat a lot of the same gags, whether embarrassing "birds and the bees" chats with Jim's dad or Neil Patrick Harris and his drug use and apparent superpowers. Both of these sequels work pretty well by also coming up with new and funny ideas too, but neither were in any hurry to mess with the formula, and both were rewarded for it at the box office. You can bet that the people behind The Hangover Part II took notice.


- More advice comes from Matt Patches at Film School Rejects, via films like "Ghostbusters," "Anchorman," "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Fight Club," in a list titled "8 Iconic Movie Rules to Live By." Regarding the "Fight Club" rule he addresses below: not talking about Fight Club has to do with avoiding promotion. This makes me wonder what Tyler Durden would think of Twitter. He certainly would not have an account. Or any kind of social media presence.

4. You Do Not Talk About Fight Club – Fight Club

Tylder Durden stresses the importance of this mandate by not only making it the first rule of his underground boxing group, but also the second rule as well. The repetition certainly gives the line additional significance thanks to Durden’s commanding emphasis, but he’s not a badass just for making up two rules that are exactly the same. It’s the fact that he’s technically breaking them that wows us. What a rebel.


- Eric D. Snider has outdone himself at Movies.com with "An Obsessive-Compulsive's Guide to the Summer Movie Season." Someone give this guy a book deal, because this is one of the most fun groupings of specialized movie trivia I've seen in a while. It might just make you hate the summer movie season. Sadly, it's all the fault of tornadoes, which makes it horribly timely. From the lengthy, funny intro:

in 1996, Warner Bros. had a crazy idea. Memorial Day was going to be owned by Paramount's Mission: Impossible. What if WB opened Twister not one week early but -- and stay with me here -- TWO weeks early? Twister had Spielberg as an executive producer, it was about natural disasters, and it was fun but kind of stupid: It was clearly a "summer movie." To open it a fortnight ahead of the customary summer movie season would be a bold move. WB said, "Screw it, WE'RE DOING IT." Go big or go home, that's what they say at Warner Bros.


- Yahoo! Answers feels like a message board sometimes, such as when a question like this is asked: "What film could be a metaphor for your existence?" Replies include "The Big Lebowski," "Punch-Drunk Love," "The Passion of the Christ" and of course "The Matrix." That one is for us all, really. But my immediate thought for my own existence: "Adaptation." Now all I need to do is get back to screenwriting.


- Courtney Enlow at Pajiba counts down "The Most Emotionally Scarring So-Called Children's Movies of the '80s." Beating "Return to Oz," "The Dark Crystal" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (which I recently noted is especially sad when you realize freeways eventually existed) is something I've never, ever heard of: "The Hugga Bunch." Or maybe I blanked it out of my memory?
Studies have proven that this is the film that the highest population of ’80s children have completely blocked from their memories, believing it to be some manner of fever dream or psychosis from their youth. It’s real, you guys. It’s real. Also, it taught a generation of kids that “retirement homes” are horrible places where your grandma goes to die.


- Mashing "Toy Story" with "Bulworth" makes very little sense. But if it gets the kids to watch "Bulworth," okay.
[via Have You Seen This?!]

- Mashing "Platoon" with "Tropic Thunder" makes more sense. But maybe too much sense. You can just play it in your head without even watching the video, which you can find here.

- Mashing "Star Wars" movies with "Withnail and I" is just plain ludicrous. And brilliant. I love Yoda so much more now:

Head over to Live for Films for two more parts involving C-3PO and Darth Vader.


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This article is related to: Remakes