Jews in the News: Maya Rudolph, Mila Kunis and Marc Maron

At the Movies and Coming Up

“The Happytime Murders,” which opens on August 24, is stylistically a cross between a Muppett movie and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”  The director is Brian Henson, the son of the late Jim Henson, who created the Muppets. The premise is that Muppet-like puppets (like the animated characters in “Roger Rabbitt”) really exist and function as animate, intelligent beings and that they independently interact with humans. The Muppet-like characters in the film are so like many of the original Muppets in appearance that “Sesame Street” sued, claiming a copyright violation. They lost their suit and the “Happytime” publicity department heralded their court victory by running ads that say (in an opening line): "From the studio that was sued by Sesame Street.”

Like “Roger Rabbit,” “Happytime” explores the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. The lead character is Phil Philips, the first puppet to join the Los Angeles police department. As the movie begins, he is working as a private investigator, having been fired by the LAPD. The action takes off when a killer, or killers, start brutally murdering the former cast of “The Happytime Gang,” a beloved classic puppet show. Phil teams with his former human partner on the LAPD, detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), to solve the “Happytime” murders. MAYA RUDOLPH, 46, has a large role as Bubbles, Phil’s human secretary. ELIZABETH BANKS, 44, co-stars as Jenny, a burlesque dancer and Phil's "former flame."  Jenny was 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) 8-episode Netflix series entitled, “Living with Yourself.” It’s a comedy about a guy struggling to become a better person. Details are scanty, but it has been disclosed that Rudd will play two different characters in the series.

Spotlight on Kunis

Two Youtube offerings provide an amazingly comprehensive take on the life of actress MILA KUNIS, 35. Kunis did many interviews while promoting her movie, “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” which opened on August 3rd to so/so reviews and ticket sales. Just before the opening, Kunis did a podcast interview, posted on Youtube, with actor MARC MARON, 54 (Search on Youtube for Mila Kunis and Maron). It’s a two-actress interview in one podcast and Mila’s hour-long interview begins about the 44 minute mark. For about ten minutes, beginning at about the 50 minute mark, she talks about her Jewish background and the quasi-Jewish religion of her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher. There’s more interesting stuff in the podcast than I can even just summarize, here. But here’s two stand-outs: (1) Kunis was born (1984) in the Ukraine when it was still a part of the Soviet Union. Her parents were comfortable professionals, she says, but rampant anti-Semitism caused them to seek to emigrate. Their exit visa was held up for five years because her paternal grandfather, a high ranking Communist party member, had to give permission for Mila and her family to leave. Grandpa finally relented and granted permission after a visit (on a tourist visa) to Los Angeles, where his own brother had settled.  He was blown away by Disneyland—a place “just to have fun”—and realized America was a place worth settling-in. And (2) Kunis was seven when she came to the States. She knew she was Jewish, but Judaism was not practiced in her home. Ironically, she said, she got religion, sort of, when she married Ashton Kutcher. While he hasn’t formally converted to Judaism---he has learned to read and speak Hebrew; reads Torah all the time; and insists the family (they have two small kids) celebrate Shabbat. (It’s weird, I know.) While Kunis says he’s interested in “all religions”, there is more going on here “Jewishly” with Kutcher than 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 a Catholic, the credit.

Listen to the podcast first, and then watch the 2017 Youtube video entitled, “My Houzz: Mila Kunis’ Surprise Renovation for Her Parents.” Her parents love their modest condo and their old friends live nearby—so Mila decides to make the condo better. You really feel like you know the whole family after watching it.  As in the podcast, she describes, as the renovation goes on, how their professional degrees weren’t valid in the States and how they worked incredibly hard to start over and provide for their two children (Mila has an older brother).

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