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The Muppet Movie (1979)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/13/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/15/2013
For many members of my generation, Star Wars is that touchstone film which changed everything for them. While I was certainly a fan when I was younger, I can't say that those movies carry much weight with me now. (Truth by told, the movie which influenced me the most was Escape from New York, but that's an odd story for another time.) Looking at movies from that period, I would have to say that The Muppet Movie had a greater effect on me. The film introduced me to the true power of corny humor and to a child, the Muppet effects were fascinating. Given last year's renaissance of sorts with the release of The Muppets, Disney is now re-visiting the original classic by bringing The Muppet Movie to Blu-ray Disc.
The Muppet Movie gives an origin story to the familiar Muppet gang. The film opens in the swamps of Florida, where we meet Kermit the Frog (voiced by Jim Henson). Kermit longs to be an entertainer and learns that auditions for frogs are being held in Hollywood. So, he leaves the swamp and begins his quest. He soon meets Fozzie Bear (voiced by Frank Oz), who dreams of being a comedian, and they decide to travel together in Fozzie's old car. Soon, The Great Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz) joins their group. While relaxing at a county fair, Kermit meets Miss Piggy (voiced by Oz) and there is an immediate attraction between the two. However, Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), who owns a chain of frog legs restaurant, has decided that if Kermit won't be his spokesperson, then he will be an entree.
While some may find The Muppets to be a bit stale, The Muppet Movie still works for several reasons. First of all, writers Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl have kept the story simple. This is a very old-fashioned story -- it's essentially a road movie, like the kind that Hope and Crosby would have made decades before. The story doesn't contain any unnecessary twists or outrageous plots, and it moves along at an organic pace. This may sound dull, but it isn't, and more importantly, it gives the characters a chance to shine. With that, we see that The Muppets have very unique personalities and each has distinct qualities. (Credit for this goes to the fantastic Muppet performers.) Whereas a modern film would most likely feel inclined to throw in an obnoxious character, everyone here is likable and all of the main characters contribute to the plot.
Perhaps most importantly, the is movie exists to entertain us. Thankfully, it isn't afraid to be silly and the incredibly corny humor still holds up today. Who can forget "Myth, myth" or the fork in the road or "Have you tried Hare Krishna?" or any number of stupid jokes which put a smile on your face? The songs by Paul Williams are fantastic and most anyone my age can sing at least a little bit of "Rainbow Connection" or "Moving Right Along". (I used to play the soundtrack over and over.) The coup de grace in the film comes with the cameos -- Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Orson Welles, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Mel Brooks -- just to name a few. It's truly fascinating to see the familiar faces which show up in every scene.
My parents aren't really "movie people", but one of my fondest memories is seeing The Muppet Movie in the theater and my mother's laughter over seeing Kermit riding a bicycle. This scenes shows how the sheer whimsy of The Muppets can reach most anyone in the audience. While it does have a subversive side to some of the humor, The Muppet Movie is never cynical and it's fun throughout. Here's to hoping that a new generation will discover and appreciate this movie.
The Muppet Movie runs into Kermit and just keeps going on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 39 Mbps. The image is sharp, but the amount of grain here can't be ignored. In the daytime scenes, it looks as if everyone is surrounded by gnats. This movie has always looked soft and this transfer is no different, although the level of detail is the best that I've ever seen it. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.1 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The songs sound very good, as they have nice presence and come through in a crisp fashion. We get some moderate stereo effects with the crowd scenes and the action scenes. However, I didn't detect any notable surround or subwoofer effects.
The Muppet Movie Blu-ray Disc contains an odd assortment of extras. "Frog-E-Oke Sing-Along" offers three songs from the film -- "Rainbow Connection", "Movin' Right Along" and "Can You Picture That" -- with karaoke-style lyrics. "Jim Frawley's Extended Camera Test" (18 minutes) offers early footage which shows experiments which capturing the Muppets on film. We watch Kermit, Fozzie, and Sweetums visit various locations. This would have been much better with some sort of commentary or introduction. "Doc Hopper's Commercial" (1 minute) shows us all of the promo ad glimpsed in the movie. The TEASER TRAILER and the THEATRICAL TRAILER are included here. "Pepe Profiles Present Kermit - A Frog's Life" (7 minutes) has the King Prawn telling us Kermit's life story.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.