The Muppet Movie Blu-ray Review
THE MUPPET MOVIE opens at World Wide Studios, where everyone from Kermit and Miss Piggy to Lew Zealand and Janice has gathered for a screening of the movie version of “approximately” how the Muppets got started. And when the lights dim and the crowd (save Animal) settles, the show begins…
The film-within-a-film begins with Kermit the Frog, on a log with his banjo, harmonizing “The Rainbow Connection.” It’s there that he just so happens to encounter an agent named Bernie (Dom DeLuise) who just so happens to be carrying the latest edition of Variety that just so happens to feature an ad looking for frogs seeking fame. And so Kermit heads for Hollywood, picking up all of the familiar faces along the way: hundredth-rate comedian Fozzie Bear, love-struck diva Miss Piggy, “prince of plunger” Gonzo and girlfriend Camilla, zany (and likely stoned) rock band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (with Keith Moon-inspired Animal on drums), jazz pianist Rowlf the Dog, and more. All the while, they’re pursued by a seedy businessman named Doc Hooper (Charles Durning), who wants Kermit to serve as spokesman for his fried frog legs restaurant, and Sweetums, who wants to be famous just as much as the next Muppet.
THE MUPPET MOVIE was released in 1979 in between the third and fourth seasons of THE MUPPET SHOW. By that point, the show already had two Emmys and a half-dozen more nominations. It was time to prove that they could sustain a feature-length movie. And, despite on-set struggles between creator Jim Henson and director Jim Frawley, it’s no surprise that it was an entirely successful and worthy effort. (Henson and Frank Oz took on the role for THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER and THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN, respectively.)
Written by Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl, who both served as head writers on THE MUPPET SHOW, THE MUPPET MOVIE is one of the more clever entries in the canon, with so many funny bits that include sight gags (the fork in the road), puns (“Bear left, Fozzie”), cameos (Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Elliott Gould, Bob Hope, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, and Orson Welles, to name a few), and nods to other Muppet-related works, as when Big Bird hitches a ride so he can make a name in public television. The best meta bit involves a copy of the movie’s screenplay, which is used to catch newcomers up to the story thus far and trace the whereabouts of the characters.
The voice cast is also top-notch, with Henson (Kermit, Rowlf, the Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth, Waldorf), Oz (Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Animal, Sam the Eagle), Jerry Nelson (Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Crazy Harry, Lew Zealand, Robin, Camilla), Richard Hunt (Statler, Scooter, Janice, Sweetums, Beaker), and Dave Goelz (Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot) among the primary talent. Also memorable are the techniques used to make the Muppets appear to operate without the aid of man and the catchy tunes, including “Movin’ Right Along,” “Can You Picture That?” and, of course, “The Rainbow Connection,” which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
THE MUPPET MOVIE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. For its Blu-ray debut and (nearly) 35th anniversary, THE MUPPET MOVIE has been treated to a very nice high-definition transfer. While the video can’t be described as flawless (its late ‘70s production values hinder this), it’s certainly better than any DVD release, as it boasts tremendous details in the felt and fur of all of Jim Henson’s creations.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The audio transfer is clean overall, but there seems to be a certain amount of dimension lacking in the music numbers that keep it from shining.
Frog-E-Oke Sing-Along: This feature lets fans sing along to “The Rainbow Connection,” “Movin’ Right Along” and “Can You Picture That?”
Jim Frawley’s Extended Camera Test (17:53): This collection of test footage shows the puppeteers working Kermit, Fozzie, and more in various locations and angles for director Frawley. Definitely not for the younger ones who might be traumatized seeing Kermit with an arm up his rear.
Pepe Profiles Present Kermit – A Frog’s Life (6:34): The Spanish prawn interviews Fozzie, Gonzo and more to shed light on Kermit’s early days.
Doc Hopper’s Commercial (1:03): Hopper pitches his restaurant with a song and dance.
Disney Intermission, which offers different songs when you hit pause.