Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition: Volume One DVD
Starring
Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Michael Caine, Tim Curry, Kevin Bishop
Director
Jim Henson, Brian Henson
& James Frawley
Kermit's 50th
Anniversary Collection

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nless you wrote for “Saturday Night Live” in the ‘70s, admit it: you love the Muppets. When we were offered the chance to review the 50th Anniversary Editions of four Muppet feature films, we snatched them out of their hands before they could change their minds. When we were finished, we realized that we miss Jim Henson more than we ever knew. Now we're just waiting for the next wave of re-releases to change our minds.


The Muppet Movie (1979)

After finding success on the small screen with their highly admired sketch comedy show, Jim Henson’s Muppets super-sized their popularity with their very first feature film. And while the title may not sound original, “The Muppet Movie” is one of the best films in the series. Following the basic outline of two overused genres, the origin film and the road trip film, the story finds Kermit the Frog traveling cross-country on his way to Hollywood with the hopes of becoming rich and famous. Kermit meets other Muppets along the journey - including an aspiring stand-up comic (Fozzie), an eccentric plumber (Gonzo), a wannabe movie star (Miss Piggy), and a band of rock ‘n roll hopefuls (The Electric Mayhem) - while being chased down by Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), the power-hungry owner of a fried frog legs restaurant chain. The Charles Durning character is probably the least compelling human of all the Muppet films, but the star-studded cameo list is incredible, including Richard Pryor, Bob Hope, Elliot Gould, Milton Berle, James Coburn and Dom DeLuise. Featured in much larger cameo roles are Steve Martin as a haughty waiter, Mel Brooks as a mad German scientist, and Orson Wells in a rather ironic role as a studio executive who utters perhaps the best line of the film: “Miss Tracy, prepare the standard ‘rich and famous’ contract for Kermit the Frog and company.” “The Muppet Movie” is really “Kermit’s Big Adventure” more than anything else, which is probably why it’s also one of my personal favorites. The Kermit character is easily the best of the bunch, so it’s always a more enjoyable experience when he commands the screen. Featuring whimsical humor and two of the best songs from the Muppet catalog (“Rainbow Connection” and “Movin’ Right Along”), “The Muppet Movie” is one of those classic films that anyone will enjoy. – Jason Zingale


The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

As the second full-length feature starring Henson’s motley crew of puppets, “The Great Muppet Caper” is one of the worst installments in the long-running franchise, second only to the god-awful “Muppets in Space” - which we’ve been spared of in the first wave of DVD re-releases. Now that Kermit and Co. has established themselves as movie moguls, their first order of business is to produce a musical about twin brother newspaper reporters (Kermit and Fozzie) and their oddball photographer (Gonzo). After the trio is canned for failing to report on the theft of a famous diamond necklace, they make their way to London with the hopes of interviewing the necklace’s owner, Lady Holliday (Diana Rigg), and tracking down the thieves. There’s just one problem: Kermit is fooled into thinking that her newly-appointed secretary (Miss Piggy) is the real Holliday. Plenty of tongue-in-cheek wackiness and grandiose song-and-dance numbers follow, but seldom with the same comedic precision that you’ll find in films like “The Muppet Movie” and “Muppets Take Manhattan.” In fact, it’s a real shame that Disney has yet to secure the rights to the latter film, since it would have functioned as a better suited addition to this 50th Anniversary rollout. Still, despite the lack of special features and Kermit’s backseat role in the film, it’s hard to deny the timeless charm of Henson’s Muppets, making even “The Great Muppet Caper” a worthy title in any fan's collection. – Jason Zingale


The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Few had much hope for Muppet movies after the death of Jim Henson in 1990. Indeed, their first feature film project, “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” shows some severe growing pains, in terms of replacing Henson’s voice impersonations and the TV show’s trademark wit. The movie stays pretty faithful to Charles Dickens’ story, with Gonzo (as Dickens) and Rizzo the Rat providing some slapstick humor along the way. The effects are occasionally poor, but this is a Muppet film, not “Jurassic Park,” so no harm done. The same cannot be said for Paul Williams’ songs, however, as they don’t hold a candle to his work on “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.” Like the other movies, this “special edition” is pretty barren, with one deleted scene (in the full screen version only, the bums) and an audio commentary by director Brian Henson. All things considered, the project could have been disastrous without Jim Henson’s guiding hand, and while it was hardly that, it is not a crowning achievement, either. –David Medsker


Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

Ahhhr, now that’s what we’re talking about, mateys. The Muppet take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale is looser and much funnier than its Dickensian predecessor, with a significant punch-up on the script and much more entertaining songs to boot (any children’s movie with a song that boasts “free margaritas at the late buffet” is all right with us). Tim Curry, never one to turn down a paying gig, plays the role of Long John Silver with every ounce of ahhhhhhhrrrrrrr that you would expect, and surprise, it fits the material just fine. Even better is Billy Connolly, who plays the soused Billy Bones and bites it in the first 15 minutes (the phrase “hose nose” is never as funny as when it’s said by a Scotsman). If they make one mistake, it’s in being too self-aware; they crack wise, and often, about the movie, the audience, fitting certain characters into the action, etc. You can only get away with so much of that, and they clearly didn’t know when to quit. Still, a good chunk of that “aren’t we cute” junk is erased the second that Kermit makes an “Evita” reference to Miss Piggy that stands as the movie’s greatest line…aside from the Jennifer Saunders “How does she do that?” bit, that is. –David Medsker

 

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