Celebrating its nearly 35th anniversary, an intentionally sillier designation than 34th, the Walt Disney Company has recently released The Muppet Movie on Blu-ray. Ten years after debuting on Sesame Street and three years after their syndicated-television variety show, the brilliant Jim Henson and his company debuted these beloved characters on the silver screen in an enjoyable family film that still stands the test of time, a claim similar films can’t always make.
Starring the Muppets, as opposed to 2011’s disappointing The Muppets where they were unwisely relegated to supporting characters, The Muppet Movie begins with the Muppets congregating in a studio screening room to watch The Muppet Movie, which tells the story of how the main members of the gang came together.
Responding to Dorothy’s “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, Kermit (performed by Henson) sings Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher’s classic “The Rainbow Connection.” Feeling a similar longing for more out of life, Kermit heads to Hollywood for a career in show business at suggestion of an agent (Dom DeLuise) lost on vacation. Along the way, Kermit meets and is joined by Fozzie Bear (performed by Frank Oz), Gonzo the Great (performed by Dave Goelz), Miss Piggy (performed by Frank Oz), and a few others. But the journey is not without trouble as Kermit is pursued by businessman Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), who wants Kermit to be the pitchman for his chain of restaurants that specialize in frog legs!
Making millions of people happy was the reason Kermit headed to Hollywood and it was also the result of the cast and crew’s work on The Muppet Movie. The film is filled with a wide range of comedy, which should appeal to many tastes. There’s slapstick, metahumor, and even intentionally bad jokes, which can also generate smiles. The soundtrack has additional wonderful music besides the aforementioned Oscar-nominated song, such as Kermit and Fozzie’s traveling duet, “Movin’ Right Along.” And there’s an amazing collection of guest stars assembled: Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Elliot Gould, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Cloris Leachman, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas, Orson Welles, and Paul Williams. Edgar Bergen, a major influence on Henson, and Charlie McCarthy also appear. Bergen died shortly after filming his scene and a dedicated to him appears in the closing credits. If looking for flaws, the conflict is rather odd, the plot resolved rather easily, and many of the human characters are one-note, but the audience might be having too much fun to care.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p/ MPEG-4 AVC at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Colors appear in strong hues. Blacks are good but crush on occasion. The image offers well-defined objects with extremely fine details. Most notable is Kermit’s fuzzy felt and the textures the Muppets are comprised of, yet the illusion of the characters never gets lost. Film grain is not only evident but also pervasive at times. The worst moments are when grain can be seen on a statute during the film’s opening scene at the studio lot and in the sky when professional frog hitman Snake Walker appears because it looks to be moving like insects. The majority of the time it’s not an issue, so some digital manipulation may have been done, though nothing that diminishes the appearance. Moments of soft focus are likely source issues.
I was surprised to see the audio was DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 because it sounder more often like a mono experience. The track is front-center heavy with limited ambiance in the surrounds. Even the music didn’t seem to fill them and immerse the viewer.
The extras include Frog-E-Oke Sing-Along (HD, 9 min), which allows viewers to join in on three songs: “Rainbow Connection,” “Movin’ Right Along” and “Can You Picture That.” Jim Frawley’s Extended Camera Test (HD, 18 min) is a great piece from the archives. It is impressive watching puppeteers Henson and Oz in action with the characters as they improv and play. Doc Hopper’s Commercial (HD, 1 min) is available to view directly rather than through TV sets, and the film’s original teaser and theatrical trailers (HD, 6 min) are offered as well. Pepe Profiles Present Kermit: A Frog’s Life (SD, 7 min) is a strange promotional piece that appears created as a part of Kermit’s 50th birthday. There is also Disney Intermission (HD). When the viewer hits “pause,” the Blu-ray runs Frog-E-Oke Sing-Along. It’s nice unless you want to pause and look at something on screen.
While the film itself is an enjoyable delight, The Muppet Movie on Blu-ray is not a must-own. It deserves a remaster and more features to celebrate it, like an informative commentary by those involved in its making, which may come with a future anniversary. For those not concerned with all that hoopla, The Muppet Movie is certainly worthy addition to your collection.