Frank Oz is apparently a bit sniffy about being described as the man who used to be Miss Piggy. Here he directs Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Ed Norton in a one-last-heist movie and discovers that big hitters aren’t quite so easy to fist as a porker made of felt.
Bob, Marlon and Ed play, respectively, a jazz-loving master thief hoping to go out on a financial high, his lispingly effeminate fence and the cocky wannabe eager to learn at the master’s feet. A wasted Angela Bassett plays De Niro’s girlfriend. (Well, not entirely wasted. At least the producers got to tick the boxes marked “female” and “black”.)
We’re in the middle of a run of heist movies right now – Blow, The Heist, Ocean’s Eleven, Swordfish are all in theatres or on the way. And in every one of them there will be a point when the criminal mastermind outlines the plan to his waiting accomplices, starting with the line “Gentlemen, I think we know why we’re here” or its equivalent. You know, the bit where we’re told what’s meant to happen, so we can sit back and watch it all unfold, or not. The Score seems to think it’s that sort of film.
But. In a heist movie you root for the felons and marvel at their mission impossible. In The Score this never happens. Partly because the heist scenes are too long-winded, but mostly because Oz lets his Method Giants get away with flatulent “improv” scenes in which Bob mumbles, Marlon pretends not to be Mr Creosote and Ed hovers at the edges like the cloakroom boy at the eunuchs orgy. Which only leaves the minor characters for Oz to direct. Watch them closely. The bizarre faces, the funny voices, the tendency to wisecrack and look into the wings. And suddenly you realise with delicious irony that the director who now barely mentions the Henson years on his CV has given us Muppet Movie: The Heist.
© Steve Morrissey 2001