Film Review: The Muppet Movie
In 1979, James Frawley released The Muppet Movie which starred Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Charles Durning, and Austin Pendleton. The film grossed $65.2 million at the box office.
Found playing a guitar and singing in the middle of a swamp, Kermit the Frog is persuaded to head to Hollywood with the desire to make other people happy. Along the way, he picks up a multitude of friends and catches the eye of Doc Hopper, a restaurateur set on making Kermit his spokesman for his frog leg stands.
Documenting how the gang all met and started their television show, The Muppet Movie is a well-done film that's fun to watch, especially in how it shows that the biggest reason for Kermit to go across the country to Hollywood was that so he could make people happy. The desire to be rich and famous was secondary and really only came about with Fozzie, Gonzo and Ms. Piggy. The way they all meet is also good as it shows how Kermit was able to turn their failures into their strengths for the show. Admittedly, Fozzie was still corny and cheesy on the show, but it played up how terrible he was. At first, the bear really thinks he has a comedic gift. Gonzo and Camilla also demonstrate just how weird the two are as the former wants to break into stardom, but thinks Hollywood is just too easy. Then there’s Sweetums, who chases the car all the way from them car lot to Hollywood, is established to be misunderstood because he doesn’t make it clear that he wants to go with them.
The cameos are great and hilarious mainly because of how they’re unexpected, yet completely expected at the same time. Richard Pryor, normally known for his brazen comedy, is selling balloons. On the other hand, Bob Hope as an ice cream vendor is a perfect foil as he is very much kid friendly. Steve Martin practically plays himself, only as a waiter, insulting Kermit and Ms. Piggy all throughout their dinner. Carol Kane as “Myth” is a great recurring cameo because of how she only shows up when summoned by name unknowingly. So is Orson Welles, appearing as an imposing producer and studio executive.
As stated earlier, the humor in the film is certainly in the whacky style of The Muppets. Bunsen and Beaker grow Animal about 50 feet, scaring off Hopper and the thugs he put together to coerce Kermit. And early on in the film, Kermit narrowly avoids getting flattened by a couple of steamrollers and comments how he’s got such great legs to hop. It actually breeds more funny moments as that’s what starts Hopper trying to hunt him down. Further, the aforementioned misunderstanding between the characters and Sweetums is also humorous as the latter doesn’t stop running until he crashes through the screen.
The humor is also what makes the meta references so good. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem help Fozzie and Kermit escape Hopper early on by disguising their car. Humorous enough. However, they show up to help again at one point and the only reason they knew where the group was and that they needed help was because Kermit handed them the script the first time. They just followed it until it mentioned they were back in the picture. There’s also the film’s running gag of trying Hare Krishna when lost. When it’s used the second time, Kermit comments to the audience that they might as well get used to it because of how it’s going to be used. The television series might have set the stage for how the characters know they’re in a show, but this movie cemented how they were going to keep doing it in other movies.
Awards & Recognitions
bold indicates reception of award/recognition
- Best Music, Original Song (For the song "The Rainbow Connection")
- Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA - Saturn Awards
- Best Fantasy Film
- Best Writing
- Best Music
- Best Special Effects
Golden Globe Awards
- Best Original Song - Motion Picture (Song: "Rainbow Connection")
- Best Recording for Children
National Film Preservation Board, USA
- National Film Registry
- Best Youth Blu-Ray
Young Artist Awards
- Best Musical Entertainment Featuring Youth - TV or Motion Picture
- Best Motion Picture Featuring Youth