I saw two movies this weekend, The Muppets and The Hunger Games. Both hold dear places in my heart. The Muppets is the best of my childhood, felt-covered and silly tinged with just the right amount of poignancy. Katniss & Co., the dystopian trilogy that I fell head-over-heels for last year, is edgy and horrifying, offering an entirely different kind of life lesson, one that’s decidedly non-Muppet-esque.
I was hoping for sweet with The Muppets, a bit of Kermie and Piggy nostalgia—what I got was such a powerful pulling at the heartstrings, one that was so overwhelming I spent most of the movie crying. What I was sobbing for is complex, as these things tend to be if you’ve been busy rushing through the years of your life and have forgotten to check-in with your inner child. Like, literally check in. I’m a big believer in the importance of stopping on occasion and detaching from adulthood. Sometimes you have to find your old teddy bear and hug him, or slip on that frayed friendship bracelet around your wrist and wear it around for the day. Sometimes, it’s critically important that you do a cartwheel in the grass. Just so you remember. Just so you always stay a little young, a little innocent.
I must not have been doing that of late, because The Muppets wrecked me emotionally—in the best, remember-this-sweetness kind of way. Maybe I’m just a softie at heart, but in our snarky world, our 140 character-obsessed culture, sometimes you’ve got to let that façade fall by the wayside and let your emotions skate so close to the surface that you can’t help but be suffocated with feeling. That’s when the good stuff is unearthed, the pure you—the you before “real world” worries took up permanent residence in the middle of your chest. So, if you haven’t seen The Muppets, do your inner popsicle-licking, bike-riding, softball-playing kid a favor and rent it. It’ll make the spring that much sunnier, I promise.
Shifting gears…for all the emotional props I give The Muppets (to say nothing of the smart, funny script and great songs), The Hunger Games could not have been a bigger disappointment. How anyone could have taken that book and transformed it into something soulless and ho-hum remains a head scratcher, long after you’ve brushed the last popcorn kernels from the front of your shirt.
I mean, where to begin? The needlessly nausea-inducing camera shots throughout the beginning of the movie? The hopelessly inept script? The refusal to dig deep and show anything more than a passing characterization of anyone? Katniss’s character was summed up by her wearing a braid. Cinna? He wore gold eyeliner. And forget about plot lines that were completely dropped. At the end—don’t worry, no spoilers here—I felt nothing. And if you’ve read the book, you know how much you felt at the end, how much you felt throughout the entire thing. The movie? Not so much.
I will say this: Jennifer Lawrence was terrific with the lackluster script she was given. It’s a considerable feat that she did what she did with so little. Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson? Also terrific casting, along with Donald Sutherland, who, quite honestly, could sit on a stool in a bare room eating a cracker and I’d be entranced. But here’s the thing, they did a good job with what they had, but it ended up not being enough. They could have been fully fleshed out characters in compelling scenes, but they weren’t. As for Lenny Kravitz, he was the non-Cinna as far as I was concerned. In the book, Cinna is fabulously flamboyant with a rebellious streak. We got none of that. And Peeta? I’d write something about that actor’s performance, but I’d be so bored by it I can’t even be bothered.
The unfortunate thing is, it’s not like someone had to go and make stuff up for these characters—scenes, personalities or back stories. It’s all in the book. Why the book wasn’t adhered to more is a mystery. Had the writers/directors/producers not read or seen Game of Thrones? Or, here’s a thought, did they not even read The Hunger Games? Hollywood, all I can say is you better tighten it up before the next movie in this trilogy is made. Audiences won’t likely be so forgiving next time.