Everybody knows Jim Henson's famous creations, the muppets. I've seen and loved "The Muppet Show" since I was a kid. Who doesn't know who Kermit the Frog, Fozzy Bear, Miss Piggy, and Gonzo are? And who doesn't love such Sesame Street characters like Grover, Oscar the Grouch, and Ernie and Bert. But have you ever wondered how it is they came to be? If you have, than the answers lie in this, the first of the muppet movies. It seems somehow appropriate that the first muppet movie should be about the quest for fame.
The film starts off in a swamp in the middle of no where. Kermit the Frog has nothing to do but sit around, catch flies, and play the banjo. However, a chance meeting with a lost Hollywood producer spells possible change for Kermit. It seems in Hollywood they are holding casting additions for frogs interested in show business. Kermit, with his talent for singing and dancing would seem to be a prime candidate for fame. So it's off to Hollywood for Kermit the Frog as he journeys to fulfill his dreams.
Along the way, Kermit befriends several people who decide to join his quest for fame. First, there's Fozzy "wacca-wacca" Bear. Kermit meets Fozzy in a bar where Fozzy is working as a stand-up comic, and not a very good one. Since getting pelted with fruit and beer doesn't seem to hold much prospects, Fozzy decides to journey with Kermit to Hollywood. Kermit and Fozzy will also meet up with Gonzo and his chicken Camilla, Ralph the piano playing dog, Animal, and everybody's favorite, Miss Piggy.
Miss Piggy's entrance is perhaps the most memorable. We first meet her at a carnival beauty pageant where Miss Piggy is the winner. Here, she and Kermit first make eye contact, and the two immediately become smitten with each other. This leads to a hilarious scene where Miss Piggy imagines herself in a romantic fantasy with Kermit, replete with Miss Piggy singing "Never Before, Never Again" very badly. I've always wondered whether its suitable to depict animals engaging in an inter-species relationship. What kind of an effect will this have on children? But then, maybe that's a bit prejudiced of me. In this day and age, if animals of one species want to become romantically involved with animals of another species, then who are we to stop them? Pigs and frogs should be free to pursue one another.
Anyway, what follows is essentially a road movie as the muppet gang makes their way westwards. Along the way, they will face many trials and tribulations. They will also make an enemy in cold-blooded Doc Hopper (Charles Durning). Doc Hopper runs a restaurant that serves frogs legs, and he wants Kermit to go into business with him, helping to promote them. Doc Hopper sees Kermit as a vital promotional tool; a frog that can talk, sing, and dance. Not surprisingly, Kermit is not thrilled at this and turns down the offer. Doc Hopper makes it his destiny to track down Kermit and force him to help him. Those business executives are ruthless!
In one memorable scene, the bad guys kidnap Miss Piggy and lure Kermit into a trap. An evil German scientist has created a machine that will brainwash Kermit into a vegetable, so that he will obey Doc Hopper unquestioningly. Fortunately for us, Miss Piggy has a tenancy to develop superhuman strength whenever she gets angry. She manages to break her ropes and make mincemeat
out of all the bad guys as she karates them into oblivion. Don't ever cross this pig.
The beauty of Jim Henson's creations are that each of the muppets has his/her own distinct personality, so much so that you completely forget that it's a puppet you are looking at. There's the likeable well-meaning Kermit, the hook nosed weirdo Gonzo, the vain Miss Piggy, and the appropriately named Animal. It's interesting that we accept the illusion so much that when we see Kermit and the gang interacting with humans, we never think twice about it.
Speaking of humans, there are a bunch of human cameos throughout the film. Among them are Edgar Bergen and his famous creation Charlie McCarthy (his last appearance), Orson Welles, Mel Brooks, and Steve Martin. The latter was perhaps my favorite cameo. Steve Martin plays a sarcastic waiter who serves Kermit and Miss Piggy at dinner. The waiter seems to regard the two of them with contempt, something they never pick up on. I don't blame him, I'd be annoyed too at being requested to do such trivial jobs as opening and tasting wine. There's also a brief non-human cameo from non other than Big Bird himself. While the muppet gang is going west to make it in Hollywood, Big Bird is going east to New York where he hopes to break into network television. Something tells me he'll succeed.
Is there anything at all wrong with this film? Well, I question how easy it would be to break into show business just by showing up in Hollywood. When the muppet gang arrives for the auditions, the large Hollywood executive (played by the large Orson Welles) simply says, "Give them the standard rich and famous contract." Standard rich and famous contract? I need a contract like that.
Jim Henson was a genius who died way too young. It's amazing the millions of things he showed us muppets could be used for. There's no way "Sesame Street" would have survived so long had it not been for his ingenious muppets. Today, any non-human character would probably be computer animated. Even Yoda, a muppet creation in the last Star Wars movie was computer animated. While some people like this, I miss the days where everything was real. I would have much preferred a live action actor or muppet creation to play Gollum in the latest "Lord of the Rings" installment. Fortunately, Jim Henson left a lasting legacy with his many skits from "Sesame Street", his show "The Muppet Show", and "Jim Henson's Creature Shop".
We miss you Jim!
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Viewing Format: DVD
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12