Thursday 18 April 2019

The Muppet Movie (1979)

There's no easy way to put this, sometimes I was very stupid in my youth. That would often take shape in obvious ways (such as swinging on that rope "tarzan" that was on a branch too weak to hold my weight, leading to me being dropped into a river while fully clothed, spending the rest of the day desperately trying to dry off before I reached home, and the potential wrath of my mother) and sometimes it would take shape in ways I didn't even realise until now, such as my opinion of The Muppet Movie.

I've always loved The Muppets. Always. I mistrust anyone who doesn't. And a lot of their feature films are wonderful, from this first outing up to the most recent, Muppets Most Wanted. But wonderful doesn't necessarily mean great, it can just mean enjoyable and comforting. Because they all star The Muppets. Which is all a way of saying that, for some reason, I always viewed The Muppet Movie with affection, yet also thought it was a bit . . .  dull. Maybe I had been spoiled by the hectic and energetic episodes of the TV show, maybe I was victim to my youthful inability to remain engaged by films that weren't hurtling non-stop from one impressive set-piece to the next.

Whatever the reason, I was wrong. This is a fantastic film that takes a simple premise - the tale of how the gang got together - and uses it to link together some enjoyable songs, loads of gags, and a smorgasbord of celebrity cameos. There's also a plot point about a villain named Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), and his right hand man (Austin Pendleton), who wants Kermit to become the face of his restaurant chain, one that sells a menu with frogs legs as the main draw.

It's very hard to find fault with this, a film that manages to both capture the heart of the show and also shows the creations in slightly different environments and ways (e.g. it's always odd to see Kermit's legs). It helps that most of the celebrity cameos are from some of the biggest names in comedy (Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks) and some of the biggest names, period (Telly Savalas, Elliott Gould, Cloris Leachman, and a final surprise that proves extra delightful for film fans).

The songs, by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams, are catchy, the jokes are wonderfully daft, and it's all as sweet and endearing now as it was when first released four decades ago (even if the stupid child version of me didn't fully recognise that).

If you're a fan of The Muppets then this is one to watch and rewatch whenever you need your day brightened up. If you're not a fan of The Muppets then, well, I don't know how to help you.


This set is available here.
Americans can buy the same set here.

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