The Great Muppet Caper appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen picture was reviewed for this article. Although the film often looked great, a few concerns created nuisances.
Sharpness consistently appeared strong. The movie always presented a crisp and detailed image that lacked many signs of softness or fuzziness. Due to factors Iíll soon discuss, the clarity of the picture could be compromised at times, but I didnít feel that most of these concerns related to the focus of the material itself; those elements usually remained distinct and concise. I also saw no signs of moirť effects or jagged edges, and edge enhancement seemed absent.
Most movies with lively palettes show those colors through clothes, backgrounds or other non-performing elements. That wasnít the case with Caper; in this flick, it was the actors themselves who provided the brightest hues. Though some of the sets also presented nice tones, the best colors were found in the various Muppets. Those critters covered pretty much every color in the rainbow, and I thought the tones usually looked solid. Reds seemed particularly vivid and accurate, but all of the other hues also came across as clean and vibrant. The filmís best moments involved the Dr. Teeth Band, as the wild mix of Muppets made for a real explosion of color. Sometimes extraneous elements compromised the quality of the colors, but they usually seemed strong.
Black levels generally seemed positive, with dark tones that appeared acceptably deep and rich. In addition, shadow detail looked fine. I noticed no problems with low-light scenes, as they were adequately well-developed.
The only notable problems came from source flaws. I detected sporadic examples of grit, speckles, and marks. These were acceptably infrequent, though. Grain was more of an issue, but at least it wasnít nearly as prominent as it became during The Muppet Movie. The flick looked grainiest during its opening and closing credits. Other sequences also appeared grainy, but not to a distracting degree.
The 2005 DVD marked an improvement over the 2001 release. Actually, both were similar except for the prevalence of source flaws. The 2005 DVD lost some of the debris, marks and grain. It wasnít a stunning improvement, but I thought the 2005 definitely offered superior visuals.
As for the audio found on the two discs, I thought both provided identical Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Remixed from the original Dolby Surround track, the audio presented a fairly decent soundfield for its age. The forward channels showed reasonably positive localization and spread, as a variety of elements blended across speakers and moved together neatly. Panning was acceptably smooth and accurate, and most auditory elements appeared to be appropriately placed. Music showed the strongest separation, but a decent number of effects also cropped up on the sides, and these were fairly convincing.
Surround usage seemed to be relatively high, but it displayed some flaws. Frankly, the rears intruded on the track a little too heavily, as some elements - particularly musical ones - occasionally bled annoying to the surround speakers. Actually, ďbledĒ may not be the correct term, as it usually sounded as though the effect was intentional and didnít just slip through due to poor mastering.
However, this created a sense of ďdouble stereoĒ at times. By that I mean the stems from the front and rear seemed to have been duplicated to create an artificial impression of a surround track. At times it appeared that the same instrumentation occupied front and rear channels, and this became somewhat distracting. The mix for Caper attempted a nice level of involvement, but the execution occasionally seemed to be flawed.
Audio quality was generally bland but it appeared to be decent for the era. Speech sounded somewhat thick and flat, but I heard no signs of edginess and the dialogue always remained intelligible. Much of Caper was looped, and that aspect of the mix made it seem somewhat unnatural at times, but I still had few strong complaints about the speech.
Effects also sounded moderately reedy and stiff at times, but they didnít appear to be out of character for the time period; I donít expect phenomenal dynamics from a 24-year-old film, and the effects of Caper have held up reasonably well over the years. Music presented a more mixed bag. Most of the tunes and score sounded somewhat muddy. Highs appeared slightly muffled, and although I heard a fairly heavy bass presence, the low-end often came across as boomy and indistinct.
However, at times I thought these elements improved significantly. For example, ďNightlifeĒ was surprisingly clear and vivid; it didnít seem like a new recording, but it sounded much more rich and vibrant than most of the rest of the music as it offered clean highs and reasonably taut bass. Unfortunately, that tune was an exception to the rule. Overall, the soundtrack to The Great Muppet Caper was quite acceptable for its age, but it showed some weak aspects and earned a decent but unspectacular ďB-ď.
Donít expect much in the way of supplements. The sole attraction comes from Pepe Profiles Presents: Miss Piggy Ė The Diva Who Would Not Be Denied. This five-minute and 40-second piece is ďhostedĒ by the strange prawn Pepe as he chats about Piggyís work and history. He chats with Piggy herself and we get some comments from Muppets like Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo. Itís not packed with laughs, but it has some funny moments.
The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Lady and the Tramp, The Wild Shaggy Dog, The Muppet Show Season One and The Muppets Wizard of Oz. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with an ad for Radio Disney.
Despite the lack of extras, The Great Muppet Caper offered a decent DVD. The movie itself was a lot of fun, as it neatly encapsulated the spunky and witty charm of the Muppets. The DVD provided acceptable picture and audio; it just skimped on supplements. Nonetheless, The Great Muppet Caper seemed acceptable as a DVD, and the movie was enough fun to merit your attention.
Should folks who own the original 2001 DVD replace it with this new one? Only if they feel dissatisfied with the old discís picture quality. The 2005 release offers moderate improvements in that department. I donít know if the 2005 disc is enough of an upgrade to warrant another $20 from you, however, and the DVD includes nothing else that makes it worth your money. Most will probably remain happy enough with the 2001 disc, though the 2005 release is definitely the one to get if you donít own the earlier version.