Director: James Frawley
“Although placing such ‘stars’ as Kermit the Frog, Fozzy Bear, Ralph the Dog and Miss Piggy in the real world (as opposed to the soundstage of “The Muppet Show”) robs them of some of their magic, The Muppet Movie still has plenty of magic to go around.” (649, Joshua Klein, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) I must admit that I was underwhelmed by The Muppet Movie (and the reboot of The Muppets, 2011, James Bobin, now I come to think of it) Now don’t get me wrong I like the Muppets as much as the next person and they are definitely good for a laugh but I think they work better in the TV format – short, sharp bursts of puppetry mayhem.
The only Muppet film I like, well love actually, is The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992, Brian Henson) which has long since been watched every Christmas Eve as tradition demands. I think the big difference is that there was already a fixed narrative that they slotted themselves into.
The Muppet Movie is an origins story of sorts chronicling Kermit’s journey out of the swamp all the way to Hollywood. Along the way he picks up key characters such as Fozzy Bear, Gonzo and Claudia, and of course Miss Piggy. Naturally the journey is far from an easy one and full of various high-jinks, including a dastardly villain intent on using Kermit for his own nefarious means. I never realized how much Fozzy Bear and his inane catchphrase “Waka Waka” grated on me before watching this film. And Animal remains my favorite Muppet although I do have a soft spot for the Swedish Chef too.
The Muppet Movie is a very meta film. It’s entirely aware of itself making numerous references to the fact that it is a film – even producing the screenplay at one point – but then that self-awareness is a key characteristic of anything the Muppets do. “And, of course, silliness, because Muppets don’t always agree with the laws of logic, let alone physics.” (649)
Another key element of the Muppets is the multitude of celebrity cameos they manage to cram in – all actors very much of the time the film was made. The only cameo I actually recognized was Steve Martin in an absurd waiters costume. Although I did love the brief appearance of Big Bird on his way to New York to break into television, but then I grew up with Sesame Street being a permanent fixture in my house. “But the plot comes a distant second to the songs and numerous celebrity cameos (some of them Muppets as well), culminating in an encounter with Orson Welles.” (649)