“The Happytime Murders,” opening Friday, Aug. 24, is a cross between a Muppets movie and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” The director is Brian Henson, the son of Muppets creator Jim Henson, and the premise is that puppets (like the animated characters in “Roger Rabbit”) really exist and function as living, intelligent beings that interact with humans. Early in the film, we learn that that former cast members of “The Happytime Gang,” a beloved puppet show, are being brutally murdered. Maya Rudoph, 46, has a large role as Bubbles, the human secretary of Phil Philips, the first puppet to join the Los Angeles police force. Elizabeth Banks, 44, co-stars as Jenny, a burlesque dancer, Phil’s former flame and the only human cast member of “The Happytime Gang.”
It’s been announced that Paul Rudd, 49, will star in an upcoming (no date announced) eight-episode Netflix series titled “Living with Yourself.” Rudd will play dual roles in the series, which is described thusly on the Netflix website: “A man who’s burned out on life undergoes a mysterious treatment, only to find that he’s been replaced by a better version of himself.”
Mila Kunis in the house
In promoting “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” which opened Aug. 3, actress Mila Kunis 35, did a podcast interview with Marc Maron, 54. In it, she talked a lot about her Jewish background and the quasi-Jewishness of her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher. She talked about being born in Ukraine, and leaving at age 7 when her family fled anti-Semitism for the United States. She said she knew she was Jewish, but that Judaism was not practiced in her home. Ironically, she added, she got religion (sort of) when she married Kutcher. While he hasn’t formally converted, he has learned to read and speak Hebrew, reads Torah all the time and insists the family (they have two small kids) celebrate Shabbat, Kunis revealed. While Kunis said Kutcher is interested in “all religions,” there is more going on Jewishly with Kutcher than simply that.
My opinion: If their kids grow up strongly identifying as Jewish and get some Jewish religious training, give Kutcher (an Iowa native who was raised Catholic) the credit.
Also in the interview, Kunis said she has one sibling, a brother six years older than her. Maron then asked if he had an (Eastern European) accent, since he was a teenager by the time the family left Ukraine. “Yes,” she replied, “but he wouldn’t say so. He went to Berkeley, so he has a sort of a Bay Area Berkeley accent.” I take this to mean he has a shmear of a Russian accent on top of a his “Berkeley accent” — whatever that is.
If you want more Kunis, watch the 19-minute “My Houzz” episode in which she does a surprise renovation, for her parents, of the modest Los Angeles condo in which she grew up. You’ll feel like you get know the whole family. And, as in the podcast, she talks about some of her family’s background.
Jewish notes on ‘BlacKkKlansmen’
“BlacKkKlansman,” which opened two weeks ago, is being heralded as the best Spike Lee movie in years. Based on a 2014 memoir by a black police detective, the movie includes the storyline of a Jewish police officer, Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver, who is not Jewish and is not actress Minnie Driver’s brother) going undercover by pretending to be a white racist to get info on the KKK. In real life, Zimmerman was not Jewish. Among the credited screenwriters are two 31-year-old white Jewish guys, David Rabinbowitz and Charlie Wachtel, who optioned the book and began the work on the script.
In a recent interview on Filmmaker.com, Rabinowitz said that a pivotal moment in their writing was when they decided to make the white cop Jewish. “It’s already high stakes that he’s going undercover,” Rabinowitz said. “Making him Jewish just makes it that much more. On top of that, we’re both Jewish, so it just makes sense writing something a little bit more from our perspective; it was our way into the story.”
Wachtel and Rabinowitz worked on the script for a couple of years and sold it to Lee, who actually enhanced their script’s Jewish and anti-Semitic content, the pair told Filmmaker.