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March 24, 2014 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-03-24

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, March 24, 2014 - 7A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, March 24, 2014 - 7A

DISNEY
Woah now.
New 'Muppets' falls
short of its predecessor

FOCUS FEATURES
How it feels to have creative control.
Jason Bateman
talks 'Bad Words'

Film and TV star
discusses his
directorial debut in
conference call
By CONRAD FOREMAN
DailyArts Writer
Fans of Jason Bateman
probably know him best as
Michael Bluth, the voice of
reason on "Arrested Devel-
opment" (one of the best TV
shows of all time).
His role on that show is
the good guy, serving as a foil
to his self-centered, some-
times downright evil family.
As he's made the jump to the
big screen, Bateman's roles in,
movies have normally been
similar to the Michael Bluth
character; Perhaps his unde-
niable charm pigeonholes him
as the consummate nice guy.
However, in "Bad Words,"
which releases to theaters
Friday, March 28, Bateman
drastically departs from that
archetype. He plays Guy
Trilby, a crude, disgruntled
40-year-old, who attempts
to win the national spelling
bee - for eighth graders -
through a loophole. Bateman
commented on what it's like
to play a not-so-nice guy dur-
ing a conference call with The
Michigan Daily.
"We're all playing make
believe and the goal is to be
as convincing as possible at
being a bad guy: And that's
kind of fun to do."
Playing the antihero isn't
all that's new for Bateman
in this project, though; "Bad
Words" is his directorial
debut, something he's been
anticipating for a long time.
"I've been basically acting,
mostly for the last fifteen or
twenty years, with the goal
in mind of trying to create
enough capital, enough rel-
evance, enough of a profile
in the business as an actor so
that I can ask for the direct-
ing reigns," Bateman said.

The transition from on-
screen to behind the camera
is one that many actors hope
to make, though sitting on
the director's chair means
intimate involvement in both
pre- and post-production,
and poses difficulties that are
too much for many to handle.
Bateman, however, believes
directing to be a more fulfill-
ing artistic experience.
"With acting, you're trying
to convince people that you're
somebody different, and with
directing you're trying to cre-
ate a completely fake world
for the audience and trying
to shape an experience for
that audience for two hours ...
to me, it's a much more chal-
lenging and gratifying cre-
ative effort," Bateman said. "I
don't want to belittle acting at
all, but maybe it's just because
I've been doing it for so long,
it's so comfortable to me. I
was really excited about the
challenge of taking on more
responsibility."
Though his future career
plans are focused on direct-
ing, acting will still be an
important focus for Bateman.
"If I could rub a genie bot-
tle and get my wish," he says,
"it would probably be some-
thing like what Ben Stiller
does, or George Clooney, or
Ben Affleck, in that they split
their time between the two
and often do both at the same
time."
Bateman refers to his new
film as "a hard 'R,' " though
he points out that the raunchy
content of "Bad Words" serves
a greater purpose, namely, the
chronicling of the low-point
in a man's life, aman who feels
as though he's been trampled
upon by the world and seeks
his own brand of justice.
"There is a very crude, tact-
less, generic, popcorn version
of this kind of humor," Bate-
man said, "And that is not
something I was ever inter-
ested in making."
Bateman believes that,
while the film "gets uncom-
fortable at times, it's not as

bad as some of the violent
films that I think kids flock to
today."
"I think it's tough for kids
to see violence done as well
as Hollywood can do it now-
adays. We can make it look
really convincing that a guy's
head gets blown off his body,
and a lot of kids go in and see
those movies," Bateman said.
He added that he thinks
that nudity and profanity are
much less harmful for chil-
dren than the violent content
rampant in the media.
"Saying a dirty word here or
there, or looking at a woman's
breasts? C'mon. People are
sunbathing without tops on
in Europe and have been for
eons, and that continent's not
pumping out a lot of adoles-
cent murderers left and right.
There's a bit of a prudeness in
this country at times and it's a
little shocking, to at least me."
Bateman also noted that it's
important to have the dark
side of the film - especially
if the laughs are going to be
hearty.
"I knew that with that dark
humor in the script comes the
obligation to counterbalance
that with something a little
bit more sophisticated, a little
bit more human. You've got to
earn those big uncomfortable
comedic moments for people,
otherwise it just feels gratu-
itous or arbitrary. So it asked
me to do a lot as an actor and
as a filmmaker to strike that
balance."
Though darker than audi-
ences might expect to see
Bateman, "Bad Words," will
assuredly provide some
laughs. He especially praised
the comedic talent of the
cast, which includes friends
Kathryn Hahn ("We're the
Millers"), Allison Janney
("American Beauty") and
Rachael Harris ("The Hang-
over").
"I was very, very lucky and
I owe them big. I didn't have
to give them a lot of direction
either, because those guys -
they're Jedi Knights."

By CONRAD FOREMAN
DailyArts Writer
In November 2011, I tooka girl
named Hanna out on our first
date. My combination of love for
movies, fan-
dom of Jason B
Segel and lack
of originality in Muppets
date-planning Most
all pointed to
one activity: Wanted
We were going Rave20and
to see "The
Muppets." Quality16
It's been Disney
over two years
since that first
date, and certainly a lot has
changed over that time. How-
ever, Hanna and I are still going
strong. Naturally, when my edi-
tor said that one of the movies up
for review this week was "Mup-
pets Most Wanted," I knew it
had to be mine -just like I knew
Hanna had to be mine two years
ago.
This sequel to the 2011 Mup-
pets reboot (and eighth install-
ment in the "Muppets" film
franchise) picks up exactly
where its predecessor left off.
With all the Muppets back
together again, Kermit and his
pals are at a loss for how to con-
tinue their revitalized careers.
In steps Dominic Badguy (Ricky
Gervais, "The Invention of
Lying"), who promises that he
can deliver a lucrative world
tour for the gang. They catch a
train to Berlin where Dominic
lives up to his last name, helping
Kermit-lookalike, Constantine,
steal the famous frog's identity.
While the Muppets continue
their world tour, ignorant both
of their leader's absence and the
crimes Dominic and Constan-
tine commit along the way, Ker-
mit (mistakenly believed to be
Constantine) struggles to make
his way in a Russian gulag.
One of the things I love about
Hanna is her ability to make
fun of herself. It's a trait she
shares with the Muppets. From
the opening song that mocks
the poor quality of sequels, to
the police car that takes Ker-
mit away (which reads, "Plot-
pointenburg"), "Muppets Most
Wanted" thrives in its refusal to
take itself seriously.

Of course, no Muppets film
would be complete without a
barrage of cameos. Lady Gaga,
Christoph Waltz, P. Diddy,
Salma Hayek and Usher all make
minor appearances, while the
penitentiary Kermit is sent to
houses prisoners that include
Jemaine Clement, Ray Liotta
and Danny Trejo. Celine Dion
is even featured prominently in
Miss Piggy's musical number.
Aside from Gervais, Tina Fey
("Baby Mama") and Ty Burrell
(TV's "Modern Family") fill the
major human roles. Fey heads
the gulag that imprisons Ker-
mit, but harbors a deep passion
for musical theater. Burrell plays
the detective hot on the trails of
Constantine and Dominic. His
character provides a lot of the
laughs throughout, serving as a
vehicle to mock European cul-
ture (he takes six-hour lunches
and drives a car smaller than
most bicycles, among other ridic-
ulousness).
My personal favorite Mup-
pet, Bunson Honeydew, received
a surprising amount of screen
time. My grandmother, to her
dying day, swore that Honey-
dew is based on the likeness of
my grandfather, a bespectacled
chemist who suffered from alo-
peciaand attended the University
of Michigan with Muppets-cre-
ator Jim Henson.
"Muppets Most Wanted" is
fun enough, but falls short of
the bar set by its predecessor. It
appeals to nostalgia by bringing
back old gags, while still com-
ing off as fresh and original and
providing some genuine laughs

(though not as many as it would
hope). The Muppet style should
also hold a special place in intel-
lectuals' hearts, as it's perhaps
the epitome of postmodernism.
However, for a concept found-
ed on the spreading of positive
moral values, this installment
surprisingly lacks heart. Yes, the
message at the end is that every-
one belongs with their family, but
it feels forced and isn't nearly as
developed as the personal iden-
tity theme in its 2011 forerunner.
It's missing
Segel's sharp
screenwriting.
Perhaps the film fails because
it tries too hard. Jason Segel's
script was much simpler, and his
is probably the best of the eight
Muppets films. Taking the story
all over the world, focusingheav-
ily on two new villains - these
tactics intend to keep the mate-
rial from being stale, but instead
leave little room for smaller
characters to shine and forces
the whole thing to feel a bit scat-
tered.
Hanna and I both left the the-
ater thinking that our "Muppets
Most Wanted" experience wasn't
as good as our first date, and I'd
like to think that comments more
on the quality of the film, than on
our abilitytohave fun together.
RIP Grandpa Foreman aka
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