The Muppet Movie (1979): A Retrospective

Discussion in 'THE AIGBURTH ARMS' started by hubbard, Aug 28, 2018.

  1. hubbard

    hubbard Deck Sergeant

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    I am currently 40 years old as I write this (born in 1978). Like a few other franchises (Star Wars, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Superman etc...) I was introduced to the Muppets at a very young age and ended up growing up with them. In fact, I do believe this was one of the first movies I recall seeing in the early stages of my life (along with some Disney animations). Yes back in the days of big square television sets encased in a plastic wood effect surround; along with a big chunky VHS recorder that had a remote control attached by a cable. Those were the days when watching a movie like 'The Muppet Movie' on TV was a big deal and had to be recorded for repeat viewings.

    This being my first Muppet experience as a kid it obviously holds the greatest amount of nostalgia for me. As I watched this recently it was incredible just how many memories of my childhood came flooding back simply by seeing certain scenes. It's a strange...emotion really, I found myself near tears as the camera slowly panned down on Kermit whilst atop of his swampy log singing The Rainbow Connection. It's weird how you recall little moments out of the blue, little bits of dialog, despite not seeing the movie for many many years.

    But I think one of the funniest things that spring to mind is simply how much of this movie I didn't understand when I was a kid. I remember not getting some of the jokes, not understanding certain scenes, certain gestures, and even certain individual words. It's funny how you watch an old childhood movie like this and think to yourself 'oh so that's what that meant'. 'Oh that's what that character means'. 'Oh I get that now, I see the nod and wink gag'. I think the Muppets is certainly a franchise that serves both adults and kids perfectly. As a kid you love them because they are just silly, colourful, funny, and look wacky. As an adult you get the sly humour, the winks, and of course you know who the cameos are (something else I totally missed as a kid). They are very much like the old Warner Bros. cartoons in that sense.

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    As for the movie itself, it's actually more of a mixed bag for me now looking back. Firstly the Muppet effects are of course, for the time, very good. An early scene in a bar showcases a full-body sequence of Kermit and Fozzie dancing on stage. This was done by utilising the same techniques they would eventually use in 'Labyrinth' which had both Jim Henson and Frank Oz manipulating the puppets in front of a bluescreen. That footage was then composited onto pre-shot live action footage of the bar. Considering how old this movie is and it being the first Muppet movie this sequence looks great (helped by the dark setting of the bar).

    The opening sequence of Kermit sitting on his log in his swamp is also one of the movies great highlights (if not the highlight). In this case, Henson had to be submerged under the water inside the log and performed Kermit through an above opening whilst watching on a monitor. This not only sounded very tricky but also very dangerous in my opinion. Needless to say the entire shot looks flawless. The same can be said for the shots of Muppets riding bikes which was simply a Muppet stuck to the bike's pedals and handlebars with the bike being guided along by an overhead crane. And then you have the odd full-body shot of Muppets standing in the open which I'm guessing was again utilising an overhead crane, but you'd never guess because it looks terrific.

    Of course the big finale sequence of every single Muppet (including Sesame Street I think) all together singing in one huge overhead shot was the coup de grĂ¢ce. This was achieved simply by having around 250 puppet performers all side by side in large long trenches or pits (so all the Muppets would be at the same height). It was merely the same technique they used all the time but on a huge scale to incorporate all the Muppets. Simple but effective and immensely memorable.

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    The movie itself is of course a light-hearted kids comedy bordering on spoof at times. There are tonnes of silly slapstick and songs for the kids to enjoy, but at the same time the movie is crammed with dry wit, pop culture references, meta-references, and big-name cameos for the adults. The gags tend to vary in quality though it has to be said. Whilst some are still quite clever, some are horribly childish and now horribly dated. When the Muppets come to a fork in the road...there is literally a large fork in the road. At times the Muppets will actually reference the movies script, people behind the camera, and will break the fourth wall.

    The cameos are another large part of the Muppet movies that would continue going forward over the years. This being the first movie it has some epic cameos from actors of legendary status and other actors you'd be surprised to see. Brief cameos from the likes of Dom DeLuise, Telly Savalas, James Coburn, Elliot Gould, Bob Hope, Orson Welles (looking epically awesome), Steve Martin (yes Steve Martin!), and Richard Pryor to name a few. And then you had Mel Brooks (who always looked middle-aged) as a mad German scientist hired to brainwash Kermit. To say that Brooks was overacting would be an understatement, he goes for it.

    The one problem with this movie that I just can't get around is the plot, its crap. Basically Kermit and his friends are trying to get to Hollywood to become big stars (somewhat shallow in itself). This seems to be something the Muppets try to do a lot. On the way Kermit is pursued by Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), a restaurateur who wants to open a chain of fast food frogs legs restaurants (but why????). But for some reason he needs Kermit to act in some commercials for his chain to get the gig off the ground. His idea simply being a dancing frog mascot will help sell frogs legs. What's more to the question, would anything help sell frogs legs??

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    So he offers Kermit some great monetary deals to simply star in some adverts and basically be a mascot. Naturally, Kermit being the sickening goody-two-shoes that he is, he turns these offers down despite the other Muppets telling him to take them. So Doc Hopper chases Kermit and co across the US trying to force him into the deal. This involves threats, kidnapping, attempted brainwashing, attempted Muppet murder etc...In short it all feels somewhat extreme.

    But this is the problem, the plot is just awful. The Muppets just wanna go to Hollywood to become stars...just because. And Doc Hopper (notice the pun in his name) wants to sell frogs legs to Americans via a fast food chain and wants Kermit to do some adverts. But towards the end the Muppets reach Hollywood and do their thing whilst Doc Hopper and his gang simply disappear, I guess they give up (?). I should also point out that the Muppets are given the 'Hollywood rich and famous contract' by Orson Welles straight away without any hesitation. They just burst in and get taken on. Yes, I know its just a kids Muppet movie but I have to point out that the plot literally makes no sense and grinds to a nonsensical stop at the end. Its almost as if Henson didn't know how to finish it so they just...ended it with a song.

    I should also point out that the story we watch unfold is actually a movie within a movie. The story is actually a movie the Muppets have apparently made themselves and are screening it for themselves (this bookends the movie). My question has always been, is this movie the Muppets have made a bio of themselves coming to Hollywood? Is it supposed to be their story of how they cracked Hollywood? Or is it supposed to be a fictional tale they have created for monetary purposes?

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    It's certainly a historic movie with all the classic cameos, classic cars, classic songs, and classic set pieces throughout. As you might expect the movie is also pretty corny and dated these days, but that's not a bad thing. After all this is a Muppet movie and Muppets can get away with just about anything because they are so damned iconic and adored worldwide. But yeah the plot is very fast and loose, strung together by set pieces and songs which luckily are very good. All your favourite Muppets are present and correct with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Rowlf the Dog, Beaker, Lew Zealand etc...And even Big Bird on his way to Sesame Street (was Big Bird a new character at this time?). The movie does seem to end in an abrupt and odd kinda way but its so fecking sweet you just can't help but smile (or wipe away a nostalgic tear...damn it).

    Is it just me or was anyone else kinda terrified of Sweetums when they were a kid? Like who the hell thought that was a good design for a Muppet?? He's a huge, monstrous, evil-looking, humanoid beast that can run and eat things whole!!

    7/10
     
  2. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    I hate the muppets. The end. 0/10
     
  3. Bluey

    Bluey Science Officer

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    I too would like to take this opportunity to express my hatred of the Muppets.
     
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  4. Asclepius

    Asclepius Console Officer

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    Muppets are awful. You should go and watch proper Sesame Street. Sesame Street is good. Bert approves.
    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Nikki the Great

    Nikki the Great Flight Co-Ordinator

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    This is fascinating stuff and all @hubbard, but have you ever put your willy in a Kermit puppet and welcomed everyone to The Muppet Show?
     
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  6. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 Console Officer

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    Looks at Nikki's avatar and wonders if this is her flirting.
     
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  7. Nikki the Great

    Nikki the Great Flight Co-Ordinator

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    :lol::lol::lol::lol: busted!
     
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  8. Kittypaws

    Kittypaws Flight Co-Ordinator

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    And me. *shudders*
     
  9. Nikki the Great

    Nikki the Great Flight Co-Ordinator

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    Lol muppets
     
  10. Nikki the Great

    Nikki the Great Flight Co-Ordinator

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  11. Cloud

    Cloud Flight Co-Ordinator

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    Did anyone else go see the Muppets live in London the other month and fap themselves into a daze?
     
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  12. Nikki the Great

    Nikki the Great Flight Co-Ordinator

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    :lol::lol::lol::lol:
     
  13. Cloud

    Cloud Flight Co-Ordinator

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    I am going to use this thread in my latest novel . I am getting good ideas for the main character.
     
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  14. Nikki the Great

    Nikki the Great Flight Co-Ordinator

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    That's great and all, but I'm gonna take a big dump on my dinner.
     
  15. Cloud

    Cloud Flight Co-Ordinator

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    #toldyouso

    i wonder if @Bluey eats dump for dinner
     
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  16. Duke The Dumpster Droese

    Duke The Dumpster Droese Second Technician

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    I once found a shredded up Kermit in the trash. I kept it and it sleeps in my bed next to me!
     
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  17. Nikki the Great

    Nikki the Great Flight Co-Ordinator

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    I don't have time for this! I have the NHS to save!
     
  18. Ted Danson

    Ted Danson Catering Officer

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  19. Cloud

    Cloud Flight Co-Ordinator

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    Ted Danson has been on everything!
     
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  20. Underdunn

    Underdunn Deck Sergeant

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    The new Doctor Who is a woman.
     

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