The Muppet Movie

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The Muppets have gathered in a theatre to screen their new biographical film The Muppet Movie. As the film-within-the-film opens, Kermit the Frog enjoys a relaxing afternoon in a Florida swamp, singing “Rainbow Connection” and strumming his banjo, when he is approached by Bernie (Dom DeLuise), an agent who encourages Kermit to pursue a career in show business. Inspired by the idea of “making millions of people happy,” Kermit sets off on a cross-country trip to Los Angeles, but is soon pursued by businessman and entrepreneur Doc Hopper and shy assistant Max in an attempt to convince Kermit to be the new spokesman of his struggling French-fried frog legs restaurant franchise, to Kermit’s horror. As Kermit continues to refuse Doc’s offers, Hopper resorts to increasingly vicious means of persuasion.

Meeting Fozzie Bear, who works as a hapless stand-up comedian in a sleazy bar, Kermit invites Fozzie to accompany him. The two set out in a 1951 Studebaker loaned to Fozzie by his hibernating uncle. The duo’s journey includes misadventures which introduce them to a variety of eccentric human and Muppet characters, including Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem and their manager Scooter, who receives a copy of the script from the pair; Gonzo and Camilla the Chicken; Sweetums, who runs after them after they think that he has turned them down; and the immediately love stricken Miss Piggy.

Kermit and Miss Piggy begin a relationship over dinner that night, when Doc Hopper and Max kidnap Miss Piggy to lure Kermit into a trap. Using an electronic cerebrectomy device, mad scientist Professor Krassman (Mel Brooks) attempts to brainwash Kermit to perform in Doc’s commercials until Miss Piggy, infuriated by Krassman’s insult, knocks out Doc Hopper’s henchmen and causes the scientist to be zapped by his own device. After receiving a job offer, however, she promptly abandons Kermit in the barn alone and devastated.

After being joined by Rowlf the Dog and eventually Miss Piggy once again, the Muppets continue their journey. Fozzie trades his uncle’s Studebaker to a used car dealer for a 1946 Ford Woodie station wagon to accommodate their new friends, but later regrets the trade after the car overheats in the New Mexico desert. During a campfire that night, they sadly consider that they may miss the audition tomorrow, and Gonzo cheers up most of the group with a song about his longing to find his place in the world, while Kermit wanders off, ashamed of himself for seemingly bringing his friends into a dead end, and wondering whether his dreams were really worth leaving home for. Upon consulting a more optimistic vision of himself, Kermit remembers that it was not just his friends’ belief in the dream that brought them this far, but also his own faith in himself. Reinvigorated, he returns to camp to find that the Electric Mayhem and Scooter have read the script in advance, and arrived to help them the rest of the way.

Just as it seems they are finally on their way, the group is warned by Max that Doc Hopper has hired an assassin to kill Kermit. Kermit decides he will not be hunted by a bully any longer and proposes a Western-style showdown in a nearby ghost town inhabited by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, who invent materials that have yet to be tested. While confronting Hopper, Kermit explains his motivations, attempting to appeal to Hopper’s own hopes and dreams, but Hopper is unmoved and orders his henchmen to kill him and all his friends. They are saved only when one of Dr. Bunsen’s inventions, “insta-grow” pills, temporarily turns Animal into a giant, scaring off Hopper and his men.

The Muppets proceed to Hollywood, and are hired by producer and studio executive Lew Lord (Orson Welles). The Muppets attempt to make their first movie involving a surreal pastiche of their experiences. The first take suddenly erupts into a catastrophic explosion that makes a hole in the roof through which a portion of rainbow shines through on the Muppets. The film ends as the Muppets, joined by the characters from Sesame Street, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, the “The Land of Gorch” segment of Saturday Night Live, and the James Frawley Muppet to sing “Rainbow Connection.” Back in the screening room, Sweetums bursts through the screen having finally caught up with the rest of the Muppets.

REVIEW:

I just heard this week that they greenlit a sequel to The Muppets, so I decided to take the time to watch The Muppet Movie. I thought I had seen this before, but I don’t remember it, if I did, of course, it was released before I was born, so that may have had something to do with it.

What is this about?

After deciding to pursue a career in acting, Kermit the Frog goes on a cross-country trek to find fame in Hollywood. Along the way, he meets Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and the rest of the Muppets cast, and voilà, the Muppets are born.

What did I like?

Rainbow room. One of the things the Muppets are known for are the songs, whether they be catchy or heart wrenchingly beautiful, they grab your very soul and don’t let go. This is the case with the film’s opening number, “Rainbow Connection”. Not only is this a great melody, but it the cinematography leading up to it and introducing us to Kermit sitting in the swamp with his banjo really sets the mood.

Muppets. If you’re a fan of The Muppet Show, then you’ll see pretty much all of your favorites here. In a way, this film acts as a prequel to that program. For me, it was a blast to see all these characters again, and with the original voices. There is nothing like the warm tone of Jim Henson’s vocals coming from Kermit. No offense to the guy that currently lends his voice to our favorite frog.

Pacing. There is a nice pacing to this film. It isn’t slow nor does it slow down and bore the audience to death. Also, it slowly adds new characters, giving the audience time to invest in Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, and the others before adding on even more. I thought this was genius and something that other films with massive ensemble pieces should consider doing, especially as we are getting to know them.

What didn’t I like?

Cameos. I was listening to a podcast this morning and they were discussing this film. For those that don’t know, it was released on DVD/Blu-ray this week, the “nearly” 35th anniversary. The topic that stood out to me was the cameos. These are big stars, Bog Hope, Steve Martin, Orson Welles, Richard Pryor, Mel Brooks, etc. However, in 2013, not many people now who they are, at least the younger generations. Hell, even I have to go to Wikipedia for some of them. Does that take anything away from the film? No, but I think there may have been a bit of overkill with the number of cameos.

Picture. This is a minor technical complaint, but still something that needs to be mentioned. I watched this on Netflix streaming just now. I’m one of those people who actually likes the grainy look as opposed to the crystal clear picture. There is just a charm to it that really appeals to me. I guess you can say it makes a film akin to a fine wine, it has aged gracefully. The Netflix version isn’t perfectly clear, but I do think it could have been more of what the original was. I can’t blame them, though, that probably goes back to the DVD that they burned onto their servers, or whatever the technical way they go about getting movies on-line is.

Chase. Kermit, and later Fozzie and the Muppets they pick up along the way, are being chased by the film’s antagonist, Doc Hopper. As far as I can tell, this guy just wants to take Kermit and make from legs out of him. He must think those are some damn good frog legs for him to give chase cross country. I’m sorry, but the plausibility of that was a bit too much for me to swallow. Perhaps I just missed something, but his motivation just seemed a bit cloudy as far as I was concerned.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better family picture than The Muppet Movie. This is one of those rare films that all generations can enjoy, though for different reasons, be it nostalgia, jokes, or what have you. I found very little fault in this, but I can’t get over a weak villain. Other than that, I highly recommend this as a must see before you die film. Check it out!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

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