A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Muppet Movie

May 29, 2010

The Muppet Movie

“What’s a Muppet?” “Well, it’s not quiet a mop, and it’s not quite a puppet but… in short: I don’t know.”

It’s hard to believe (as is asserted on the special features on this disk) that there was once a time when people doubted that the Muppets could sustain a feature length film. Sure they were okay on the small screen, but would people really pay to sit in a theater and watch a puppet show? Jim Henson believed they would, and as we all know Jim was a man who was adept at getting other people to share his vision.

A lot of effort has been made to make the movie a more cinematic experience than the TV show. There are wide establishing shots that provide the Muppets with lower extremities. There are outdoor locations. Muppets drive cars and ride bicycles. There are all kinds of tricks to make the Muppets into big screen stars, but what makes the movie great isn’t any of that. It’s the chemistry and camaraderie of the Muppets themselves that really makes the movie.

One of the great things Jim had a knack for was bringing together people who worked well with each other, and all of the performers here had two seasons of the show to get into their characters before they made the leap onto the big screen. So these are the Muppet performers at the absolute top of their game. Jim and Jerry and Richard and Frank and Dave and Steve… they have the patter and the spirit of the Muppets down so perfectly. The movie is full of fantastic moments, and fantastic writing.

The movie purports to be the tale of how the Muppets first got together. Which is a great concept, since there really was no back story to the show. There were all these performers in this dilapidated theater, but no real explanation for why they had gathered there. Most of the time in the movies when you’ve got an origin story it’s a well known tale (or maybe that’s just because I own so many comic book movies) so it’s nice to see an origin story that is actually all new. (Or was when this was filmed.) So cool is the idea of how all these weirdos met and became a sort of extended family that the next two Muppet movies mined much of the same territory.

This might well have been one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater all the way through. (Since I famously was never able to sit all the way through Star Wars on its first run.) As a child seeing this in the theater this was my introduction to a lot of big Hollywood stars. This was the first movie I saw Bob Hope in. And Steve Martin and Mel Brooks and Orson Welles. Which was always one of the great things about the variety hour format of the Muppets – all these people I had never heard of who wanted to work with them. In many ways I think my love for the movies in general probably started right here with this film.

And there’s so much magic here as well. Like the fantastic duet that Jim Henson has with himself when Kermit and Rowlf sing “Something Better” or the great scenery and silly puns of “Moving Right Along.” The “Rainbow Connection” song and reprise still give me goose-bumps. I really do think that Kermit’s desire to make millions of people happy was probably one of Jim Henson’s biggest motivating factors as well. Certainly it’s something I wish more people would aspire to.

Let me not forget the other true star of the whole movie: the fantastic music and songs of Paul Williams. The whole soundtrack is pure gold! Every single song is catchy and gets in your head and makes you smile. (Although the sappy “Never Before” song of Miss Piggy’s always made me roll my eyes, I can’t help but grin thinking of Frank Oz hitting those high notes.) Indeed while watching this movie I hit iTunes to see if I could grab the soundtrack and was bitterly disappointed to find it not there. If I don’t have the CD lying around the apartment somewhere I’m going to have to hit Amazon tonight. I can’t get the thunderous tunes of Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem out of my mind – and I don’t want to.

May 29, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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