The Muppet Movie (1979)

the muppet movie

“I’ve seen detergents that leave a better film than this.”

The Scoop: 1979 G, directed by James Frawley and starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson

Tagline: More entertaining than humanly possible

Summary Capsule: In the beginning… there was Kermit. In the end… there were an insane amount of puppets singing.

Clare’s rating: Who knew this much felt could be this much fun?

Clare’s review: Most movies for kids these days are moving, brightly colored torture devices for adults. More to the point, they usually don’t add up to much more than a poorly scripted, two-hour commercial for whatever figurine one can buy at the local fast food eatery or overpriced toy warehouse. Come back with me, to a time when kid’s movies hadn’t yet tasted the corruption of mass marketing and demographic targeted product placement and a man named Jim Henson had a modest dream:

“When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope still is to leave the world a little bit better for my having been here.” -Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets

The Muppet Movie is basically the backstory of where the Muppets come from, how they all meet and the adventures (or misadventures) they embark on during their cross country trek to take Hollywood by storm.

It starts out simply enough. Our hero Kermit the Frog decides to leave the comforts of life in the swamp to travel to Hollywood because he finds out that his singing and dancing could “make millions of people happy”. Along the way he meets Fozzie, Gonzo, Ms. Piggy and just about every other Muppet known to man. Wacky sight gags, groan inducing puns, what seems like an endless supply of star studded cameos, the required battle with a fried frog’s legs lovin’ bad guy and a bunch of really great musical numbers soon follow all to hilarious, sometimes humbly sweet results.

At its core, this movie has one of the biggest hearts around. Its focus is on the importance of following your dreams and on staying loyal to your friends but is never preachy or heavy handed. It also happens to be tremendously funny, clever, and well written. The term “fun for the whole family” has come to mean “boring, middle of the road commercial crap” as of late. The Muppet Movie really is for real, fun for both kids and adults alike. No kidding.

For the MRFH record, my favorite Muppet of all time is Gonzo. What that says about me, I don’t know.

Justin’s rating: All my best friends are small and furry and operate with a hand shoved up their… whoa! Look at the time!

Justin’s review: In my opinion, yes, you didn’t ask for it but you’ll get it anyway, the Muppet series took a sharp plunge downhill the second they introduced Rizzo the Rat in Muppets Take Manhattan. I just never liked the guy, and it’s no ju-ju-bee coincidence that only the first two Muppet films were stocked with quality and laughs and great music numbers.

The Muppet Movie is the ultimate road trip of a frog (Kermit), a bear (Fozzy), a something-or-the-other (Gonzo), and a lot of other goofy felt creations. One of my favorites is Sam the American Eagle (“Kermit, does this film have any socially redeeming value?”), but you can’t discount the muppet film critics either. Muppets are just great in and of themselves. They look intrinsically funny, and it’s like an entire looney bin has been reincarnated into an acceptable kids fairy tale.

So, anyway, Kermit and Co. trek across America to Hollywood, in order to become big in showbiz. Now, perhaps this is below even me, but I assumed that Kermit was ALREADY pretty set in Hollywood. I mean, they’ve got Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, not to mention randomly endorsing snack cookies when the Keebler elves are on vacation.

Still, this movie manages to create the Muppet mythos by giving most of the characters good introductions (such as Fozzy’s humble beginnings as a stand-up comedian or Harry’s job at a used car lot) and integrating them well into a team. I grew up singing the songs from this movie, which was a slight problem at funerals… they are just so darn catchy! Ralph’s rendition of “You Can’t Live With ‘Em, You Can’t Live Without ‘Em” still reigns as of one of my favorite anti-dating songs. In as many words, this movie – the songs, the jokes, the cameos, the running gags – is mixed into about the most perfect viewing experience.

For me, the highlight of this movie was a (by today’s standards) rather obscure joke. When Fozzy and Kermit pull up to an abandoned church where the Electric Five are jamming within, one of them comments, “They don’t sound like Presbyterians to me!” Coming from a Presbyterian background, where loud music with an actual beat was unknown, that line was absolutely delightful. In an affectionate way, I say.

Lissa’s rating: The flilm is okie-dokey!

Lissa’s review: One of the downfalls of bearing offspring is that you will eventually be subjected to the inanity that is children’s entertainment. Barney, the Wiggles, Dora the Explorer… it ranges from educational but bland to highly offensive in just how stupid it is.

I don’t remember my childhood entertainment being stupid, but there are good reasons for that. Okay, so there’s the obvious reason that I had the intellect of a four- or five-year-old at the time, and so shows that had the intellect of a four or five year old were far more entertaining to me than they are now. Plus, there’s also the fact that my mother never let me watch much television, and we didn’t go to the movies often. But the one thing she let me watch all I wanted was Sesame Street, and at nights, The Muppet Show. (Except the Alice Cooper episode.) God bless Jim Henson.

Seriously.

And God bless whoever decided that the world needed The Muppet Movie. A fast, fun movie filled with classic Muppet humor, The Muppet Movie is deeply entrenched in my childhood, even if I can’t remember when I first saw it. Sure, my favorite Muppets have changed over the years (I used to be terrified of Animal and preferred Fozzie to Miss Piggy), and I now understand that Miss Piggy was totally fantasizing about having sex with Kermit during “Never Before and Never Again” (and yes, I am RIGHT), but this movie and its sequels have stuck with me for literally decades. And I’m not the only one. One of the few universal reactions I’ve ever seen was at a college screening of The Muppet Movie. Everyone watching started singing along with “The Rainbow Connection.”

But it’s not just the memories. The Muppet Movie, for me, is also pure comfort. Perhaps because it is rooted in pleasant memories, and perhaps because of the silliness and innocence of it (even as it’s quite cynical), I find myself popping this movie in when things are really bad. I watched it on September 11th. I watched it the night I found out my grandmother was going to die. I watch it when I’m very sad and lonely and lost and Hare Krishna just doesn’t cut it. No other movie in our collection works as well — no other movie comes close.

It also has staying power as kids’ entertainment. Now that I’m a mother, I find myself singing “The Rainbow Connection” and “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” as lullabies. We dance around to “Moving Right Along.” And although the Ducklet is too young to really give feedback, he seems to actually watch the television any time the big monster types come on, and he adores the opening scene with all the Muppets in the screening. (Of course, I suspect this has more to do with colors and motions, but still. Ducklet-approved.) And I cracked up when he did actually appear to recognize Kermit’s version of “The Rainbow Connection” and stopped crying. Of course, that might have to do with the fact that Kermit can carry a tune and I can’t, but still.

Final thoughts:

Robin still annoys me. He has ever since I owned the album “The Frog Prince” and played it into the ground. For the record, I can still remember a LOT of the lyrics. (My personal favorite: “Sweetums get that frog and how!/Froggie gonna be Sweetum’s chow!”) He only has a small part in The Muppet Movie, but I still want to drop kick the little snot.

Statler and Waldorf need to be on staff here.

The Moral of the Story bit is just as annoying in The Muppet Movie as it is in any other movie, but Doc Hopper definitely redeems it a bit by flat-out ignoring it. Heee.

Sparkling muscatel. The finest wine of Idaho. (And it should be, for 95 cents!)

And come what may, no matter what, the Swedish Chef will always be my favorite Muppet. Bork bork bork!!!

GROWTH HORMONES! YEAHHHHHH!

Intermission!

  • Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Orson Welles, Mel Brooks, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, James Coburn, Dom DeLuise, Richard Pryor and Telly Savalas?
  • Over first few credits, Sweedums bursts out of the screen, followed by many Muppet gags
  • Big Bird!
  • This was the last movie to feature famed vaudevillian Edgar Bergen and his wooden sidekick, Charlie McCarthy. It held particular meaning for Jim Henson who cited, on many occasions, how Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were the major reason he took an interest in puppetry.
  • Mel Brooks’s character has “Prof” written on the back of his coat. This is a tribute to his character in Blazing Saddles which has “Gov” written on the back of his coat.
  • A sign outside the church (where the band Electric Mayhem is playing) has the wording “Lost? Have you tried the Reverend Harry Krishna?”.
  • After the last credit, Animal is shouting,”GO HOME! GO HOME!”, then he gets sleepy, “Bye-bye…” then falls asleep.
  • Jim Henson spent an entire day in a 50-gallon steel drum submerged in a pond for the opening scene of Kermit in the swamp.
  • In a 2004 interview, John Landis revealed that he was the puppeteer for Grover during the final sequence, as Frank Oz was busy operating Miss Piggy. Landis also noted that Tim Burton was also among the many puppeteers in the finale.

Groovy Quotes

Fozzie: There was this sailor that was so fat –
Fat Sailor: How fat was he? [breaks bottle]
Fozzie: Uh … He was so fat that everybody liked him, and there was nothing funny about him at all.

Statler: Well, how do you like the film?
Waldorf: I’ve seen detergents that leave a better film than this.

Insolent Waiter: Sparkling Muscatel. One of the finest wines of Idaho.

Fozzie: A bear in his natural habitat. A Studebaker.

Lew Lord: Draw up the standard “rich and famous” contract for Kermit the Frog and company.

Kermit: [while driving] Bear left!
Fozzie: Right, frog!

[In their newly painted Studebaker]
Fozzie: I don’t know how to thank you guys.
Kermit: I don’t know why to thank you guys.

Kermit: I’m out here with a pig and a chicken and a bear and a dog and a… thing, whatever Gonzo is…

Kermit: That’s pretty dangerous building a road in the middle of the street. I mean, if frogs couldn’t hop, I’d be gone with the Schwin.

Fozzie: I’m a professional. I’ve had three performances.

Fozzie: Oh, I’m so nervous. If this movie’s no good, I won’t be able to live with myself.
Bunsen: Well, then you’ll have to get another apartment.

Gonzo: Well, I want to go to Bombay, India to become a movie star.
Fozzie: You don’t go to Bombay to become a movie star. You go where we’re going, Hollywood.
Gonzo: Well, sure, if you want to do it the *easy* way.

Rowlf the Dog: It’s not often you see a guy that green have the blues that bad.

Kermit: Where did you learn to drive?
Fozzie: I took a correspondence course.

Sam the Eagle: Kermit, does this film have socially redeeming value?

Robin the Frog: Uncle Kermit, is this how the Muppets really got started?
Kermit: Well, it’s sort of approximately what happened.

Max Krassman: When a German scientist tells you to hold on to your hat, it’s not casual conversation. HOLD ON TO YOUR HAT! HAT! HOLD! Good.

Statler: I’m Statler.
Waldorf: I’m Waldorf. We’re here to heckle “The Muppet Movie”.
Gate Guard: Tell him it’s down on the left. Private screening room B.
Statler: Private screening?
Waldorf: Yeah, they’re afraid to show it in public.

Statler: I like this movie fine so far.
Waldorf: It hasn’t started yet.
Statler: That’s what I like about it.

Fozzie: [after singing “America the Beautiful”] Patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear.

Rowlf the Dog: [singing] You can’t live with ’em, you can’t live without ’em. / There’s something irresistable-ish about ’em. / We grin and bear it ’cause the nights are long. / I hope that something better comes along.

Fozzie: [walking into the church and seeing the Electric Mayheim] They don’t sound like Presbyterians to me.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • The Great Muppet Caper
  • Muppets From Space
  • Muppet Treasure Island

10 comments

  1. Actually Rizzo did make an appearance in The Great Muppet Caper, albeit not a particularly big one.

    If you listen to the lyrics of The Rainbow Connection from an H.P. Lovecraft type perspective, they’re quite unsettling.

  2. If Jim Henson ever had any doubts that he’d achieved his ambition, the answer is an unequivocal ‘absolutely’.
    To this day, one of my favourite getting-to-know-you questions when I meet new people is ‘Who’s your favourite muppet?’ (for the record? When I was a kid, I liked Bunsen and Beaker best. Now it’s Statler and Waldorf. What that says about me? Um, next question please.)

  3. […] The Muppet Movie is still my favorite of the Muppet movies. Wow, that sentence sounded repetitive, but you know what I mean. The first one had the most snark, the most sarcasm, the most blatant innuendo, the most grown-up humor. But that doesn’t mean that the sequels didn’t have any of those things, and Muppets Take Manhattan has a charm of its own. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s