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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
James Frawley
Cast:
Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Dom DeLuise, Elliott Gould, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn
Writing Credits:
Jack Burns, Jerry Juhl

Tagline:
More entertaining than humanly possible.

Synopsis:
They're irreverent, irrepressible, and downright irresistible. They're the Muppets ... starring in their first full-length movie! See how their meteoric rise to fame and fortune began: with a rainbow, a song ... and a Frog. After a fateful meeting with a big-time talent agent, Kermit the Frog heads for Hollywood dreaming of showbiz. Along the way, Fozzie Bear, the Great Gonzo, and the dazzling Miss Piggy join him in hopes of becoming film stars too. But all bets are off when Kermit falls into the clutches of Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), a fast-food mogul seeking to promote his French-fried frog-leg franchise! Featuring Oscar-nominated music (1980, Best Original Song "The Rainbow Connection," Best Original Score) and side-splitting appearances by some of the biggest names on the silver screen - including Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Orson Welles, and more! This fully restored and remastered 50th Anniversary Edition of The Muppet Movie is a critically acclaimed comedy classic your family will treasure for all time.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$76.657 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 11/29/2005

Bonus:
• “Pepe Profiles Presents: Kermit – A Frog’s Life”


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Muppet Movie: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 29, 2005)

For many folks of my generation, the Muppets maintain a nice place in our memories. After all, thirty-somethings like myself were among the first to be reared on these puppets. The Muppets followed us through our lives; just when we got too old for Sesame Street, along came The Muppet Show to provide more sophisticated entertainment.

I recall being quite excited when they released The Muppet Movie in 1979. I can even recall exactly when I saw the flick; my family and I went to a showing on Christmas Day 1979. I loved the film so much that I quickly blew some Christmas cash on a Fozzie the Bear puppet. This meant that many cries of “wocka wocka” were heard throughout my house during that vacation.

Boy, was that a long time ago! I suppose I saw Muppet again between 1979 and today, but I can’t say this for certain. In any case, I was happy to check out the movie once more with its release on DVD, though I was also a little nervous. As I noted when I reviewed both 1974’s The Towering Inferno and 1978’s Jaws 2, it can be perilous to revisit childhood faves. While The Muppet Movie doesn’t engender memories as strong as those I have for the other two flicks, I still remember it fondly, and I worried I’d not care for it today.

Although I didn’t adore Muppet on this latter-day screening, I still thought it was a fairly entertaining experience. The film purports to tell how the Muppets got together. Actually, it’s a movie within a movie, as we see the gathered grouping of characters begin to watch Muppet at the film’s start. From there, it’s a mostly-uninterrupted view of the “factual” proceedings.

The movie’s plot is quite simple. Early on, a talent scout (Dom DeLuise) gets lost in Kermit’s swamp, but before he departs, he tells our favorite melancholy amphibian that he’d be a natural in show biz. As such, Kermit (voiced and manipulated by Jim Henson) sets out to make his name in the world, and as he travels to Hollywood, he encounters a mix of new friends. There’s Fozzie the Bear (Frank Oz), Miss Piggy (Oz), Gonzo (Dave Goelz), piano-playing Rowlf (Henson), the Dr. Teeth Band, and a slew of others, most of which accompany Kermit on his trip.

Not all is happy, however, as a nasty businessman pursues Kermit every step of the way. Doc Hopper (Charles Durning) owns a chain of frogs’ legs restaurants, and he wants Kermit to act as spokes-frog. For obvious reasons, Kermit has philosophical objections to such a role, and he declines. Unfortunately, Hopper won’t give up easily, so he uses all sorts of nefarious means to get his frog.

You’ll earn no points if you guess that all will eventually end well. Actually, the movie lets you know this in advance; since the entire story is essentially a retelling of past events, we know that Kermit and the gang will make it to Hollywood and become big stars. It’s the journey that’s the entertaining part, and it indeed is often fun to watch the crew make their trip to fame.

As with most Muppet productions, most of the charm found in Muppet comes from the performances of the puppeteers. Henson, Oz and the others had operated their charges for many years by the time Muppet rolled around, so they clearly were comfortable in the parts. I suppose the pressure of a major motion picture may have created new demands, but they seemed able to handle them well.

One nice thing about good Muppet productions is that they can be entertaining for both kids and adults. The entire event proceeds in a fairly simple, innocent manner that keeps it very kid-friendly, but the crew make sure that there’s a mild irreverence and nuttiness that adds interest for adults. I don’t think that Muppet is quite up to the fairly sophisticated standards of Disney flicks like The Emperor’s New Groove or the Toy Story features, but it still offers enough adult-oriented material to ensure that those of us over the age of 10 will have a good time.

Actually, one of the film’s nods to the adult audience became a burden during Muppet. You’ll find a stunning roster of talent. Brace yourself, for here they come: Edgar Bergen, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, DeLuise, Elliott Gould, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Cloris Leachman, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas, Orson Welles, and Paul Williams. Of course, many of these names are bigger than others, but that’s still an insanely long list of stars to pack into this brief feature.

Some of them genuinely add to the film. Martin’s bit as a snide waiter was fun, and some of the others had decent bits as well. However, the entire enterprise became quite tiresome after a while. This blunted the impact of the cameos; virtually anytime we saw a Muppet request the attention of a human, we’d then see a person with his/her back turned to the camera. After that, the human would make his/her identity known, and we’d go wow! Orson Welles! Or whoever. This seemed interesting for the first few cameos, but after that, I really started to wish that the celebrities would disappear from the project.

Despite that issue, I still found The Muppet Movie to provide a generally enjoyable experience. The movie lacks great depth or humor, but it was largely witty and compelling, as the gentle irreverence of the Muppets remains a solid source of entertainment. Other Muppet programs top it - such as the terrific “Muppetvision” show at DisneyWorld - but for the Muppet films, the first was probably the best.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus D

The Muppet Movie 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 letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Although it still presented some problems, this transfer offered a decided improvement over the original 2001 DVD.

Sharpness usually appeared positive. At times it became a little fuzzy and ill-defined, but it generally manifested a positive level of clarity. Though this wasn’t a razor-sharp presentation, it seems acceptably concise. I saw no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, but a little edge enhancement popped up through the movie.

Most flicks with lively palettes show those colors through clothes, backgrounds or other non-performing elements. That wasn’t the case with Muppet; in this release, 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 connected every tone in the rainbow, and I thought the hues always looked solid. Reds seemed particularly vivid and accurate, but all of the other colors also came across as clean and vibrant as well. The film’s best moments involved the Dr. Teeth Band, as the wild mix of Muppets made for a real explosion of color.

Black levels generally seemed solid, with dark tones that appeared acceptably deep and rich. However, shadow detail was a little lacking. Some low-light situations came across as a bit dark and dense, with images that could be somewhat hard to discern. I didn’t think the picture seemed muddy, though, and the film included few enough dim sequences that this wasn’t much of a concern.

Print flaws caused the main concerns. I saw a few examples of specks and marks, though these never became too serious. The worst offender was grain. The opening shot of the movie showed a lot of grain, and many more segments would appear similarly marred. The grain wasn’t consistent, as some scenes featured none of it, and others only displayed light problems with it. When it got intense, though, it could become pretty heavy.

Despite that problem, I thought this transfer marked a notable improvement over the prior one. The movie seemed less grainy and showed fewer other forms of source defects. The rest of the transfer matched up with the old one fairly closely, but the cleaner source made a big difference. I felt the prior disc only deserved a “C-“ for visuals, but I bumped that up to a “B-“ here. It ain’t great, but it’s progress.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Muppet Movie seemed the same for both versions. Remixed from the original Dolby Surround track, the audio presented a fairly limited soundfield. Activity stayed pretty firmly anchored to the front channels, and the center speaker dominated the affair. Music and ambient effects spread acceptably to the sides at times, but these were never very involved partners in the affair. I heard some decent panning on a few occasions, such as when a car would cross the screen, but these elements didn’t seem impressive.

As for the surrounds, they added little to the track. On a few occasions they demonstrated loud outbursts - such as an explosion early in the film - but for the most part, they were passive partners in the experience. The music spread uncomfortably to the rear, as it echoed the front speakers in a self-conscious manner. This wasn’t a terrible display, but it didn’t seem natural. Otherwise, I felt that the rear channels provided mild atmosphere to the mix but didn’t do much else.

Although the soundfield seemed quite modest, that was fine with me; most films from the late Seventies were still monaural, so a true surround mix didn’t need to do much to outperform its peers. Audio quality was more dated and less satisfying, though not terrible.

As a whole, the mix sounded somewhat thin and brittle. Speech was intelligible, but the dialogue seemed sort of lifeless throughout much of the movie. Effects also showed little realism as they displayed reverberated and processed tones; distortion seemed mild for these elements, but their failure to show accurate sounds seemed problematic. Music was similarly tinny and wan, and the track’s attempts to integrate low-end tones did not succeed.

While Muppet actually offered quite a lot of bass, the low-end seemed loose and undefined, and it stood out badly. The bass felt as though it’d been roughly grafted on top of this track and it actually detracted from the experience. Ultimately, the soundtrack for The Muppet Movie earned about a “B” for its subdued but more-than-adequate-for-the-era soundfield, but the thin and drab audio quality dropped into “C-” territory. I don’t expect a lot from a late Seventies flick, but I really thought this mix had some problems. As a whole, that meant an overall score of a “C+” for this flawed soundtrack but sporadically impressive soundtrack.

Don’t expect many supplements here. The main one comes from Pepe Profiles Presents – Kermit: A Frog’s Life. This six-minute and 33-second clip is “hosted” by the strange prawn Pepe as he chats about Kermit’s success and legacy. He yaks with Kermit himself and we also get some praise from Muppets like Fozzie and Miss Piggy along with “C”-list celebs such as David Hasselhof and David Alan Grier. The short offers some mild amusement at best.

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 clips for Kronk’s New Groove, Sing Along Songs Volume 3/Disney’s Learning Adventures and JoJo’s Circus.

Although the prior disc didn’t include many extras, they were superior to what we get here. We got some interesting “camera tests” along with cute “Muppetisms”. I don’t know why those fail to reappear here.

Not that big fans of The Muppet Movie will really miss substantial extras. I get the feeling this film generates a great deal of goodwill, and most folks will be happy just to own a DVD copy of it. For myself, I thought it was a generally charming and entertaining flick, though it had some slow moments along the way. The DVD provides erratic picture and sound, and the supplements lacked any significant components. In the end, The Muppet Movie is a fun film that will entertain many. I wasn’t wild about its treatment on DVD, but it still merits a look for Muppet fans.

Should those folks who own the old DVD “upgrade” to this new one? I’d say yes – if they’re actively dissatisfied with the picture quality. The new one doesn’t look great, but it seems cleaner and more watchable to me. I don’t know if the improvements are worth another $20 retail, though.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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