The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

The Great Muppet Caper is the second (as far as I can tell) in the Muppet movie franchise.

The basic plot is that twin reporters, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear, miss a jewel heist happening right in front them, get fired and end up going to England to try to interview Lady Holiday and to recover her jewels, thus ensuring a triumphant return to their jobs.

The self-awareness of this film is even more deliberate, even sharper and more 4th wall breaking than in The Muppet Movie. I found it highly amusing at the beginning but by the end of the movie the charm of it had rubbed off and it felt overused, like a 3 day old sardine out of its tin. Ok, not that bad but it had definitely stopped being amusing by the end.

Once again, there were musical numbers out the wazoo. And once again, it was quite different from The Muppet Movie. Where I was humming, singing and tapping my metaphorical toe in the first movie, these numbers were much more group oriented, almost felt like broadway chorus songs. I didn’t find myself entranced by the music at all. Psychic Grandma wouldn’t have tried to convert any of these into belgian boom wave, not even into 7/92 tempo!

The silly, over the top, zany humor, situations and physical comedy were just the same however. Miss Piggy is as bipolar as ever between Bashful Debutante and Kungfu Queen. Fozzie is clueless, Gonzo is suicidal (in a very “I wonder what X would be like” rather than a depressed and anxious way) and Kermit is the glue that binds every character together. The human cast did an admirable job of playing to the Muppets but my goodness, they were even more shallow and ridiculous than Doc Hopper and his Frog Hunter in the first movie. The Love Triangle between the Jewel Thief, Kermit and Miss Piggy is as developed as a can of playdo and is used as an excuse to A: further the plot and B: make comments about it doing nothing but furthering the plot. I have to admit though, just thinking about it all still brings a smile to my face.

While this had some differences from the first movie that didn’t work for me, I still laughed and smiled while watching this. And since that is ALL I expect from this franchise, it’s a solid success. I guess my final verdict is a thumbs up.

The Muppet Movie (1979)

Ahhhhh yeah! When I blogged about The Muppet Christmas Carol and posted a link over at Librarything, one of the people over there suggested I make 2021 The Year of the Muppets for the movies I watch. I liked that idea so much that I decided to act on it. This is the first installment of that plan.

A bit of background.

The Muppets tv show had been going strong for a couple of years and it was decided to leverage that into a big Hollywood movie. About Kermit going to Hollywood to make a movie and become famous. That sort of self-referential gag runs through this movie the entire time. It’s great. No knowledge of the tv show or the Muppets in general are needed to understand anything in this movie. While I am sure that having knowledge of the tv show would make this a stronger movie, a lack of knowledge doesn’t make it weaker (if you can follow that). This is an Origins story and as such each main Muppet character is introduced with their various quirks and personality traits on full display.

The gist of the movie is that Kermit is going to Hollywood to audition for a movie and along the way picks up a disparate crew of other Muppets and they all believe in themselves and sing and dance their way across the country. At the same time Doc Hopper, a fast food franchise owner, wants Kermit to do the commercials for his Frog Legs chain of restaurants. He’s chasing down Kermit and that ends with in a western style showdown in a deserted ghost town. Then the Muppets make it to Hollywood and get Orson Welles to give them “the standard Rich and Famous” contract. All this takes place AS a movie within the movie, with the muppets watching its debut in a private theatre. It is just genius. There is singing, there is muppet dancing, there are cameos from a lot of A-List actors, many of whom I have no idea who they are now, and there is a lot of feel good fun the entire time.

The movie opens with the 2 Grumpy Old Men (Statler and Waldorf) driving into the debut and making wisecracks about how bad it is going to be. It perfectly set the humorous tone for the movie. The movie ends with all the muppets hanging around the theatre and talking while the credits roll. It was like watching an after movie party of stars. From beginning to end, this felt consistent.

I found myself bobbing my head and singing along to the various songs. I was laughing and grinning the entire time as well. This was just a Good Time Movie that kids, adults and even fractious grumps could enjoy. I am quite happy that I bought this and plan on watching it again (although not writing about it). I can see this becoming a Happy Background Movie for me.

I would call this a complete success!

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992 Movie)

I reviewed the story/book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens back in ’13 and it is the basis for this movie. If you don’t know the basic premise of the story, please go read that or look it up on Wikipedia. This review will assume that the reader knows the basic plot to ACC.

First off, besides the Muppets, Michael Caine has the starring role as Ebenezer Scrooge. If a movie has Michael Caine in it, you know it’s going to be a good movie. While fringe nut job yobs might try to present evidence to the contrary, I simply ask my readers, who are you going to trust? Me, or some fringe nut job yob?
Michael Caine = you know you are getting a good movie.

On to the slightly more serious.

The singing. Muppets movies always have singing, whether the audience wants it or not. I’ve resigned myself to this fact and tried to not let it unduly influence me. Of course, just because Michael Caine is a good actor doesn’t mean he’s a good singer. He does take part in one song and I have to admit, he’s not terrible but I think things might have had a bit more glitz if they’d dubbed him over with Michael Jackson, who was still arguably the Prince of Pop in ’92. The message conveyed by the songs are as trite and shallow as you’d expect from a Disney production but really, if you read Dickens’ book, he’s not really that much deeper.
Oh yes, the Missing Song. In the theatres, there is an extra song that was subsequently cut out from all dvd/bluray releases. I personally didn’t miss it but if you’re a completionist, it is supposed to be included in the next “upgrade” to this movie. 4K I believe. Simply one more way for Disney to bend you over and make you think you like it. The picture below shows the type of propaganda Disney promulgates.

On to the good stuff.

If you are a fan of the Muppets and their zaniness, then this is a no-brainer to watch, even if Dickens isn’t your cup of tea. Between Fozziwig (a cute play on Fozzi’s name being used for that character) and his Rubber Chicken Factory to Gonzo playing Charles Dickens (and being distracted by every chicken that walks by) to Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy playing Bob & Mrs Cratchett, you get your fill. While a knowledge of the Muppets isn’t essential, knowing them as The Muppets gives an added dimension to the fun. An example would the single scene where Sam the Eagle is sending a young Scrooge off to his first place of business as an apprentice and rhapsodizes about the the beauty of business. Sam ends it with “…and that is the American Way!”. Gonzo whispers in his ear and Sam immediately says “…and that is the British Way!”. Which is really funny if you know that Sam is the proto-American Super Patriot as a Muppet.

The story proceeds at a rapid pace and almost feels like Scrooge changes for the sake of changing. However, this is in keeping with the original book and shouldn’t surprise anyone. Throw in that this movie was made for a juvenile audience and the pacing is perfectly in line with what out of touch Hollywood Directors think is appropriate for your child. Just don’t expect a deeply thoughtful, insightful and deeply philosophical movie and you should be just fine. You’re in this for the singing, dancing and laughs.

This gets a big fat thumbs up from me.