1 The Mickey Mindset: Retro Reviews: The Muppet Movie

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Retro Reviews: The Muppet Movie

Mitchell Stein- Before everyone jumps on me to lecture me that this was technically a Jim Henson/ITC film when it was initially released in 1979, I’d like to pull out the Disney/Henson contract which was signed back in 2004 which states that the Muppet franchise and most Muppet
movies are now under the Disney brand, which is lucky for our blog, so we can now feature the Muppets along with our other favorite Disney franchises.

Being a major Muppet fan, this Muppet film is my favorite above all the other ones. The movie is funny, heartfelt and inspiring and gives us a nice backstory (sort of) to how the Muppets approximately got started. The Muppets all gather together in a private theater to watch their film that they experienced and then filmed for a full-length feature, which is the story we're about to witness.

Our story begins from the first strum of Kermit’s banjo to the music of Rainbow Connection, a truly beautiful song. For me, the song is truly about finding yourself and living your dream and really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. When a Hollywood agent named Bernie (Dom Deluise) meets him in the swamp, he convinces Kermit to audition in Hollywood and possibly make millions of people happy.
Kermit declines the fame and fortune, but upon hearing he could have the chance to make millions of people happy, he decides to go and audition. This is one of the reasons why I love Kermit. The only thing he cares about is everyone else and how they would feel. He cares about making the audience happy when not even thinking about his own fortune, unlike a certain pig out there.

Along the way Kermit meets up with Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Camilla, Miss Piggy, Rowlf the Dog and the Electric Mayhem who decide to join him on his adventure to become rich and famous. Kermit catches the attention of Doc Hopper (brilliantly played by Charles Durning) who wants to use Kermit as his mascot to sell his Frog Legs. He’s so convinced about Kermit and so overshadowed by his own ambitions that he even goes as far as kidnapping him, hiring an evil scientist and a frog killer to convince Kermit to star in his commercials.

The music in the movie is always completely catchy, upbeat, mellow and profitable, (I’ve had Can You Picture That stuck in my head all day. The Rainbow Connection was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, but lost to “It Goes Like it Goes” from Norma Rae, it’s a true shame, as The Rainbow Connection was a much deeper and meaningful song than the others.  The other songs, including I’m Going to Go Back There Someday is easily one of the saddest songs in filmmaking history, which is sung by Gonzo when all hope is lost, and it seems that the Muppets will never be able to accomplish their dreams. I Hope That Something Better Comes Along is catchy and fun as is Movin’ Right Along which is probably one of my favorite Muppet songs ever.

With this being the first Muppet film I have to say they really started things off with a bang! The puppetry is eye-popping and way ahead of its time. Fozzie and Kermit dancing on-stage creates is incredibly eye-popping and sets the stage for an entire film where you will completely forget the characters are even puppets, and this was way before the days of CG animation.

In Rainbow Connection, Kermit sits on a log in the swamp playing his banjo. Many people think this film is fake and filmed on a soundstage but in fact was actually filmed on location. Jim Henson would bend down into a small underwater tank filled with oxygen with two spots to control Kermit and his banjo. It was extremely uncomfortable, but the finished project was totally worth it. I mean, just how did they even film that giant Animal sequence? I can’t even imagine how hard that might have been.

The cast of cameos lineup is truly terrific and has a great and hilarious lineup of celebrities including many popular names of the decade such as Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Milton Berle, Steve Martin, Chloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Orson Welles, Bob Hope, Big Bird(!) and so many more. I truly love every cameo in this movie as each one is more memorable than the other. Some remain on-screen for as little as ten seconds, but their lines are quick and memorable and will always have a spot in Muppet history.

I truly love this movie. It’s the beginning of Muppets on the big-screen and began many more Muppet films to come, including Muppets Most Wanted, out in under two weeks. It’s the seed that grew into an entire big screen franchise and played predecessor seven other great Muppet films. It’s a lot of fun, has a lot of heart, depth and great story. I love this film and it still remains of my absolute favorites.

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