The Muppet Movie was amazingly popular. It was the tenth highest grossing movie in 1979, making over $65 million, which would be nearly $217 million today. But the Muppets didn’t stop there. The Muppet Show continued another 2 years on television, Sesame Street was still going strong, they kept producing albums and television specials, and the Muppets continued making special appearances on talk shows. Two years later, it seemed as though the Muppets wanted to make another movie. This picture, directed by Muppets creator Jim Henson, is known as The Great Muppet Caper. I know I said that The Muppet Movie is the best Muppet movie, but this film is my favorite Muppet movie! Not only that, but this is also one of my favorite comedies ever! This film is hilarious! It’s mind blowingly (yes I just made that up) incredible how funny this is! Whereas the first movie had heart and even an artistic edge to accompany the comedy, this film focuses mostly on the comedy. That isn’t to say this film isn’t artistic either, but anyone who watches this will bet the filmmakers wanted to make all of the jokes they could in this film. Let’s get into it.
STORY: The story’s OK. Much like The Muppet Movie, this film has a simple plot. There’s more going on here, but it’s relatively simple. Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo, reporters for a newspaper, fly to England to cover a story surrounding the robbery of fashion designer Lady Holiday. Upon their investigation, they discover that the person behind these robberies is Holiday’s brother Nicky. I don’t think I’m ruining anything when I say that because the movie gives that away pretty early…Actually, that’s kind of my problem with the story. I understand it’s a caper and the story focuses on the heroes figuring out the mystery the audience already knows the answer to. But it takes a while for the heroes to figure out the mystery, and the story drags. Fortunately, the movie is filled with other great and entertaining things to keep the audience interested, but the story does drag and isn’t that captivating.
One of the interesting things about Muppet movies, beginning with this one, is they aren’t connected. They don’t follow a consistent story line; they don’t even really follow the lives of the Muppets. These movies have set a tone where literally anything can happen. If you’re expecting this to be a sequel to the last Muppet film, think again! Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo are reporters for a newspaper, as I said earlier, and they fly to England where they meet the other Muppets at the Happiness Hotel. Piggy meets Kermit in London, where she flew to model for Lady Holiday…What part of that reminds you of the plot of the first movie? The Muppets are meeting for the first time in this film, with the exception of Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo. If you find yourself thinking this is a sequel and demand to know how the Muppets continue to meet over and over again, you’ll be confused and aggravated. However, if you accept the fact the sky is the limit for their films, you’ll have a good time. Really, that’s what these films promise us anyway: a good time. The stories don’t have to be consistent; they focus more so on being entertaining and fun for the audience. That what this story is, and so it’s fine.
HUMAN CHARACTERS AND CAMEOS: There’s not a whole lot to say about the live action human stars in this film, so let’s just hurry up and dive in.
1) Lady Holiday – Lady Holiday is OK. She’s not the most interesting character. There’s not really that much to her character; she’s snoody and pompous because of her riches and title. That’s about it. She’s just not that exciting to be around. With that being said, though, I honestly do like her. I know that sounds odd, but let me explain. First of all, the human characters in a Muppet movie are never supposed to be more compelling or entertaining than the Muppets. We’re not here to see Lady Holiday – who the crud even is she? Bring on the frog! Second of all, there are some moments Lady Holiday stands out a little. She often throws out a very funny line. I laugh at her early in the film when she reviews the outfits for the fashion show. Why in the world did she pour ink on someone’s clothes?! I do like how snoody and pompous she can be. She’s never too mean to the point that you want something bad to happen to her. She’s quite reserved in her pompousness, but it’s played up enough so the audience can enjoy her. Actress Diana Rigg portrayed her well. I like her.
2) Nicky – I actually find Nicky interesting. I love how unsubtle this guy is! Of course we learn within the first 5 minutes that he’s the villain, what with his attire and the music. But when you spend more time with him, you find yourself loving how over the top he is. I enjoy Charles Grodin’s portrayal of him! I love the way he said “And me” at the beginning. I love the way he speaks to his sister in the supper club – mainly when he says, “Thieves aren’t breathing down your neck!” I ADORE how he goes nuts over Miss Piggy! But my favorite part of his performance comes when he frames Piggy after her dream sequence! Listen to his response when Piggy figures out what he’s doing! It’s a riot! I can’t help but love this guy! I can’t really say this is a bad performance necessarily. In fact, you could argue that this is the way the character is supposed to be played. Like I said before, Muppet movies are very aware of themselves, and Nicky comes out and says, “I’m a villain” in the film. He eats up his villainy like candy! We enjoy it because he does!
There aren’t as many cameo guest stars in this film, but they serve more of a purpose here than they did in the last movie. Jack Warden, for example, is Mike Tarkenian, the editor of the newspaper Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo work for. Robert Morley is the British gentlemen by the pond; he’s the one who tells Kermit about the Happiness Hotel. John Cleese refers Piggy and Kermit to the supper club for dinner. Peter Ustinov drives the truck Piggy uses to help get her to the Mallory Gallery. Peter Falk…is just a man who strikes up conversation with Kermit; he’s pretty worthless to the plot. Although, I do like him trying to figure out the story behind the glass slipper Kermit’s holding. Also, Oscar the Grouch makes a quick cameo here! He has 2 lines with Ustinov after he’s thrown in a pile of trashcans. My favorite is either Falk or Oscar – their dialogue is hilarious!
While you may or may not recognize those celebrity guest stars, have you ever noticed any of the other cameos in this film from the Muppet performers? Yes, some of the Muppet performers make quick appearances in the movie without a character on their hand. Richard Hunt can be seen driving Kathryn Mullen in a taxi during the opening number. Frank Oz makes an appearance somewhere behind Gonzo in the office of the Daily Chronicle. Jerry Nelson was the one walking with his daughter in the park when they passed Kermit holding Piggy’s slipper on the bench. And, of course, Jim Henson is in the supper club when Gonzo approaches him and asks to take his picture for $10.
SONGS/MUSIC: The songs in this movie are really good! They serve more of a purpose to the situations here than they did in The Muppet Movie. It’s important to mention that the writer and composer of the songs and score is the late and the great Joe Raposo (1937-1989). In addition to writing music for shows like Three’s Company and The Electric Company, Raposo may be most famous for his musical contributions to Sesame Street. In addition to writing the show’s theme song, he also wrote “ABC-DEF-GHI,” “Bein’ Green,” “C is for Cookie,” “Sing,” and many, many more. Oh, yeah! This guy wrote part of your childhood playlist! Let’s go over his songs for this film.
1) Hey A Movie!/(Reprise): I think Gonzo described this song best at the beginning of the film, “What a fantastic beginning!” This song lets us know we’re in for a good time. We can just focus on being entertained. We all know what kind of film we’re watching. The sole purpose here is to laugh and be entertained. I love it. I love this song!
2) Happiness Hotel: This song is hilarious! Who in their right crudded mind would ever agree to stay at a hotel so awful? The guests stay there like it’s their home? There’s no kitchen or food? The elevator doesn’t work? The building doesn’t even have the right address?! This is the worst place to lodge, and no one is hiding that fact. Yet their blunt honesty and friendly personalities somehow makes this the best place to stay. How in the world this becomes the worst and the best place to stay simultaneously, I don’t know. I love the irony in that, but I mainly love the humor that comes from the lyrics. The song itself is simply funny as crud. It’s a great number!
3) Steppin’ Out With a Star: There’s not a whole lot to say about this number. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s catchy. Is it wrong I think of this number as the Muppets’ equivalent to “Movin’ On Up to the East Side?” Maybe, but who cares? I could say more, but I don’t think I need to. This is just an enjoyable Muppet song, and those hardly ever fail. It certainly doesn’t fail here! This song is great!
4) Night Life: I have mixed feelings about this song. It’s not very memorable. This is one of the last songs I think about whenever I name Muppet movie songs. To be fair, though, I don’t think it’s supposed to be that memorable. The song doesn’t draw as much focus and attention as the other songs in this film. In this scene, we’re mainly focused on watching the Muppets get to the supper club. Despite all that, however, this is still a fun song. This is exactly the type of song the Electric Mayhem would perform. The music rocks hard, and Dr. Teeth’s vocals are rough. It’s a nice song, but it’s not the best Muppet movie song.
5) The First Time it Happens: This is such a lovely number. Every element of the song makes it great: the lyrics, the music, the main and background vocalists, the tempo, the progression – everything about the song is delightful. It’s very regal and romantic. I like that; and give this song credit for being nominated for an Oscar. There’s not much else to say except if you haven’t heard this song yet, look it up. The first time it happens, you won’t be disappointed.
(This is the best version I could get.)
6) Couldn’t We Ride: This song is so beautiful to me. If “Movin’ Right Along” is the song we sing when we go on long drives, this is the song we all need to sing when we ride our bikes. It’s just a lovely, peaceful song. It’s like the song you want to sing when you want to forget about your worries for a moment. I love this song in the movie, and I love it just as much as a stand alone song. Raposo really outdid himself!
7) Piggy’s Fantasy: This song, and the scene it’s shown in, teaches us how to fantasize! It’s over the top! It’s big! It’s gorgeous! It’s fancy! Really, it’s played up as one big joke. Even so, the song still sounds amazing! If you took Miss Piggy, the context, and the lyrics away, you would think this music was taken from a ballet or an opera. Based on how these songs sound alone, I’m surprised only one of these songs was nominated for an Oscar. Regardless, this song is just great!
(This is the best version I could get.)
PUPPETRY: It is amazing to me what lengths Jim Henson and his team will go to in order to make these characters real. The puppetry in this film rivals that from The Muppet Movie! There are amazing feats of puppetry performed throughout the entire film, but let me share the two moments that stand out to me the most: (1) The Muppets climbing up the side of the Mallory Gallery. I’m surprised I’ve never heard people talk about this scene. I accepted it as a kid because I knew these characters were real. Now as a young adult, I keep asking myself how this happened whenever I see this scene. Were the characters radio controlled? Were they marionettes? How in the world was this stunt accomplished? Whether I get to figure it out or not, I love that moment! (2) The bicycle scene. Like everyone else, I am blown away by the bicycle scene! It’s so amazing! It’s so incredible! How in the world did the filmmakers think of this? How in the world did they pull it off? Rather than just having the Muppets ride bikes like they had Kermit do in the first movie, now we have Kermit and Piggy riding in circles around each other and Kermit standing up on his bike to perform stunts. That is incredible! This is the type of genius creativity that makes us love the Muppets so much!
COMEDY: I can easily declare the comedy the best element of this film! These jokes are not only funny, but they’re creative and smart! Watching this film as a teenager, I realized the difference between comedy directed to children and adult comedy. Kids don’t often understand everything that’s being said, so most of what they laugh at in family films come from what they see. Youth and adults, however, can understand a lot more, thus they laugh at both what they see and hear. There’s no way I can talk about the comedy in this film without giving some of the jokes away. I’ll only talk about a few of them, but they are hilarious and I am in love with them!
– Kermit and Fozzie are twins. That’s right! In this film, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear are twins – not just twins, but identical twins! The best way to see the resemblance is when they both wear hats! This joke is so strange and surreal, you can’t help but laugh! It is a creative and hilarious joke! I don’t know how the filmmakers thought of this or made it up, but it works so well!
– Lady Holiday’s rant about Nicky. After Piggy gets hired as a receptionist (which is a totally different joke), Lady Holiday delivers an unwarranted monologue about her brother Nicky. After she’s done, Piggy asks her, “Why are you telling me all this?” Lady Holiday replies, “It’s plot exposition, it must go somewhere. Anyway…” I LOVE IT!!! Not only is that a fantastic and subtle fourth wall joke, but it’s also a great punch line for a speech that had nothing to do with anything! I wish all dialogue in movies that were unrelated to the plot ended in some hilarious joke.
– Sam’s proud heritage. After Piggy get arrested, the rest of the Muppets gather together in the Happiness Hotel to discuss what to do. Fozzie makes a patriotic speech about how they all need to help bring Piggy justice. After everyone begins agreeing with him, Sam the Eagle (who wasn’t already in the room) leans in and says “It’s times like this I am proud to be an American.” On the surface, the joke is funny because Sam came in out of nowhere and because the moment was very patriotic. However, I thought of another reason why this joke really works. The Muppets are currently in England! Who the crud cares you’re proud to be an American? I find humor in the irony of that!
These are just a few of the tons of hilarious jokes that are found throughout this film! The movie is full of joke after joke – they’re all on top of each other. It’s clear that the focus of the movie was on the entertainment and humor, and it did not disappoint at all!
CONCLUSION: I love this movie! The story lags a bit, but the movie more than makes up for that with all the other elements! The live-action human characters are likeable and entertaining. The songs are wonderful! The puppetry is outstanding! The jokes are hilarious! It’d be wrong of me to say this is the best Muppet film – again, I think that title belongs to The Muppet Movie. However, this is not only a strong Muppet film, but it’s also my favorite! The comedy alone is worth watching the film, but it has wonderful characters and songs to support it as well! I look forward to watching it more and more in the future!