Movie Review: The Muppet Movie (1979)

Welcome to Muppet Mondays! Over the next several Mondays I will be working my way through the various movies in the Muppets and Jim Henson oeuvre.

Title: The Muppet Movie
Release Date: May 31, 1979
Director: James Frawley
Production Company: ITC Entertainment | Henson Associates

It’s hard to review this movie objectively without the lens of nostalgia.  On the other hand, I’ve grown to expect that my childhood faves will disappoint me, so the fact that this movie holds up so well is a testament to its greatness. The Muppets transition to movies by making fun of Hollywood tropes – particularly road trip buddy comedies, sappy romances, and lets-put-on-a-show – while still being a loving tribute to movies and entertainers in general.  The meta-fictional humor in this movie was unusual at the time in in retrospect it must have inspired a generation that made that kind of humor widespread in the 1990s.

The Muppet Movie also has several moments that still make me think “how did they do that?” such as Kermit playing on a log, Kermit bicycling, Fozzie driving a car in long shots, and over 250+ Muppets singing and dancing at once in the finale.  Even learning things like Jim Henson spending hours in an underwater tank to perform Kermit in the swamp doesn’t diminish the sense of awe.

The movie is also fun for the cameos where one can test their memory of 1970s celebrities.  Luckily, you don’t have to know who Dom Deluise, Carol Kane, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, or Cloris Leachman is to laugh at their performances (I do wonder how much Orson Welles was paid for his one line, and if he showed up on time for the filming). Last but not least, there is the terrific music by Paul Williams.  “The Rainbow Connection,” “Movin’ Right Along,” and “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” are classics of the American music book.

Rating: *****

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