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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Muppet Movie

August 11th, 2013

The Muppet Movie: The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The Muppet Movie came out 34 years ago, which makes it a little strange they are releasing a 35th Anniversary edition Blu-ray this week. Then again, I'm glad I don't have to wait another year to get this movie on Blu-ray, because I loved it as a kid. Does it still hold up decades later? And is the Blu-ray worth picking up if you are a fan of the movie?

The Movie

The Muppet Movie tells the story of how the Muppets got started and begins in Hollywood at a movie studio where they are showing The Muppet Movie for the first time. After Kermit thanks everyone involved in the movie, the actual story begins.

The story begins in a swamp with Kermit singing "The Rainbow Connection" when Bernie, a Hollywood agent boats by. He's looking for directions, but after seeing Kermit he thinks the frog would be perfect for a casting call he read in the papers. Someone is looking for frogs to make a star. While Kermit loves living in his swamp, he loves the idea of making millions of people happy, so he decides to go. Along the way, he sees the construction of a new Doc Hopper's French Fried Frog Legs restaurant and is spotted by Max, Doc Hopper's assistant, who quickly, tells his boss.

The first place Kermit lands up at is El Sleezo, the toughest, meanest, filthiest, pesthole on the face of the Earth, and that's according to the owner. The entertainment for the evening is Fozzie Bear. As expected, his performance is going so badly that Kermit thinks he might be physically harmed. To help him out, Kermit does a dance number with Fozzie, which seems to please the crowd. ... Not really. The pair get beat up, but fortunately Fozzie is able to outsmart the crowd and they leave together.

At this point, we've reached spoiler territory. We've introduced the basic plot of the movie. (Kermit traveling across the country with a growing group of crazy characters, while trying to get away from Doc Hopper.) And this is usually the point where we stop the plot summary. However, when writing the review, I wrote until nearly the very end before I realized this was the best place to stop. (I got sucked into the movie, even though I've seen in a dozen times.) I don't want to waste it all, so the plot summary will go to the end.

Kermit is spotted by Doc Hopper. A dancing frog would be perfect as a spokesman for his chain of French Fried Frog Legs. He tries to convince Kermit to become the new spokesman. Kermit is rightfully horrified at the prospect of convincing people to eat frog legs and refuses. Doc Hopper doesn't take rejection well and follows Kermit and Fozzie as they travel to Hollywood. They even create a billboard with Kermit on it to show how well it looks. He doesn't understand the principle of principles and how no amount of money will convince Kermit to do something he finds against his morals.

The road to Hollywood is a long one, especially with a detour to Saskatchewan. (At least that happened according to the song "Movin' Right Along".) Kermit and Fozzie come across an old church where Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are playing some funk music. Dr. Teeth, Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Zoot, Janice, and Animal, along with their road manager, Scooter, are planning on turning the old abandoned church into an organic coffee shop. After hearing their story, or to be more accurate, reading the screenplay, they decide to help out the pair by disguising their car so Doc Hopper and Max won't find them. It's quite a trip to see. Unfortunately, they are spotted nearly immediately, and while they get away, they will need another way to get to Hollywood.

Kermit and Fozzie quickly run into Gonzo, the Prince of Plumbers. The resulting car accident is not as tragic as one would think, but they still need new car. They find Mad Man Mooney (Milton Berle)'s used car dealership. Thanks to a well placed swatted fly, they get a 1946 Ford Woodie station wagon to drive. They ask Mooney's jack, Sweetums, if he wants to go to Hollywood with them. He just runs offs, so they leave. (It turns out he ran off to get his luggage and he chases after them, but they don't see him. How could they not see him? He's huge. This might be is the biggest plot hole in the movie.)

The next stop in this road trip is the Bogen County fair, where the announcer announces Miss Piggy is the winner. When Miss Piggy and Kermit meet, it is love at first sight. Kermit mentions they are going to Hollywood and then accidentally invites Miss Piggy to go along with them. (He meant to invite her to get some ice cream.) Before they can sort it out, Gonzo floats away while holding a bunch of helium balloons and the group has to rescue him.

After this dramatic event, Miss Piggy and Kermit have a romantic dinner together. Only Miss Piggy gets a phone call from her agent and leaves. Kermit gets some advice and a song from Rowlf the Dog. However, Kermit also gets a call. It's from Doc Hopper. The call Miss Piggy got was a trap and he's kidnapped her. If Kermit doesn't come with his goons, he'll kill Miss Piggy. Doc Hopper has hired Professor Max Krasman, a mad German scientist. He will give Kermit an electronic cerebrectomy. That is to say, he will fry his brain so he will do whatever Doc Hopper tells him to do. Fortunately, this enrages Miss Piggy so much that she rescues them both. Unfortunately, this time Miss Piggy really gets a call from her agent and she leaves Kermit for a job. (She's back with him the next day, after the group picks her up hitchhiking.)

Meanwhile, Doc Hopper decides to get serious and hires a professional frog killer, Snake Walker. Worse still, their car breaks down in the middle of the New Mexico desert. This leaves Kermit dejected. He is less worried about missing then auditions than he is upset at letting everyone else down. He wanders through the desert trying to figure out what to do next and gets a pep talk from... himself and heads back to the car. He then hears music and discovers Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are there. They read ahead in the script and realized the gang needed help and came to get them to Hollywood.

There's one more obstacle in their way: Doc Hopper. Max manages to warn them about the professional frog killer, but Kermit realizes he can't keep running and decides it's time for a showdown. He picks a ghost town to make his last stand. This town, it turns out, is home to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. When Doc Hopper arrives, Kermit tries to appeal to his kinder instincts. When that doesn't work, a giant Animal scares them away. (This happens as a result of one of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's experiments, but that should come as no surprise.)

When they get to Hollywood, they get a meeting with Lew Lord. Kermit explains he's come to Hollywood to become rich and famous, so Lew Lord gives them the standard "Rich and Famous" contract. They just need a couple of song and dance numbers and we are back at the movie theater in the beginning.

I love this movie. It really is as simple as that. The Muppet Movie truly captures the essence of the Muppets from the goofy humor, the catchy musical numbers, the gratuitous cameos. There are so many cameos in this movie is it hard to keep up. At the time it came out, there was a great mix of established stars (Bob Hope, Mel Brooks, etc.) and young and up-and-comers (Steve Martin and Richard Pryor). A couple of these people I did not recognize, and I'm sure 35 years later, some of the cameos have lost their impact. Additionally, some of the jokes are a little weak, while not all of the songs are classics. That said, it is arguably the best movie in the franchise, although the most recent installment, The Muppets is also a contender.

The Extras

The Blu-ray is not loaded with extras. The most unique is an intermission, which includes three songs with lyrics: "The Rainbow Connection", "Movin' Right Along", and "Can You Picture That?" Up next is an 18-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and Sweetums outside and doing screen tests. There is also the 1-minute commercial for Doc Hopper's French Fried Frog Legs. Finally, there is a 7-minute interview with Kermit by Pepe the Prawn.

As for the technical presentation, it's starts out bad. When the movie-within-a-movie starts and we move through the swamp, it looks pretty bad. It is far too soft. However, as soon as we focus in on Kermit, it really improves. The level of details never reaches reference quality levels, but it is still a great improvement over the opening. The audio is less impressive. There's nothing wrong and the dialogue is always very clear. However, it is not a very complicated track and the surround sound speakers, especially the bass, are mostly ignored.

The Blu-ray only costs $18, which is a little lower than I was expecting.

The Verdict

The Muppet Movie combines all of the strengths of The Muppets and tells a story that feels big enough to carry a movie. (This is not always true when it comes to movies based on TV shows.) The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition - Blu-ray doesn't have a lot of extras, but the overall quality is enough to be worth upgrading to.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Muppet Movie, Muppets, Orson Welles, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Dom DeLuise, Charles Durning, Dave Goelz, Elliott Gould, Jim Henson, Bob Hope, Steve Martin, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, Austin Pendleton, Richard Pryor