Jun 18, 2010

[Movies] The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
I tend to think of the Muppets as one of my "guilty pleasures" of sorts. It's something like Archie Comics - I can't imagine anyone who hasn't spent some time reading at least one Archie digest completely, but it's also not the kind of comic book that you tell friends that you read. It's just sort of there in our collective history and when you actually try to confront someone about it, they'll admit to it having read it in the past if not until today.

It's not like I'm not proud of my Muppet fandom, mind you. It's just sort of there and it's not quite the first thing that I ever rush out to tell other people about. It just doesn't come to mind for some reason until you get into one of those conversations with your friends about them. Then suddenly you're all going ecstatic about what you consider to be one of your favorite Muppet moments or dance routines or whatever.

And this movie definitely features one of my favorite Muppet sequences of all time. Sure, it's not quite the most complex routine ever depicted in a Muppet film but it's the one that I love the most above all others. Yes, I'm campy that way.

The Great Muppet Caper is the second Muppet movie ever released for the silver screen. It wasn't exactly a sequel - which I think was quite a relief especially in light of the current Hollywood landscape. It was just another movie involving the Muppets, and that's all that's needed really.

This time around, Kermit (Jim Henson), Fozzie (Frank Oz) and Gonzo (Dave Goelz) are reporters at a newspaper. Kermit and Fozzie are somehow twins (at least when Fozzie has his hat) and they turn out to be not so great reporters given they missed the big jewelry heist during their opening number. And so they set out for London to find out more about Lady Holliday's (Diana Rigg) stolen jewels but instead mistake her for her new assistant, Miss Piggy (Frank Oz). Yes, things work that way in the Muppet universe.

Beyond the jewelry heist storyline, there's also the matter of where Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo are temporarily staying while in Britain - a run-down place known as the Happiness Hotel. Of course this is just another excuse to cram in all the other Muppet characters like Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and many others, but it still works. And thus the story goes back and forth between the investigation of the stolen jewels, the growing attraction between Kermit and Miss Piggy and whatever it is the Happiness Hotel folks are up to.
This movie was initially a surprise since I like many others sort of expected more of a direct sequel to the last one. And yet they surprised us with something completely different, which contributed to what has become the overall pattern for Muppet movies in general. They're all just witty comedies that stand independent of one another, thus leaving behind any need for a sense of continuity. Thus the movies become ridiculously easy to get into even if you've never seen the Muppets before. Sheer genius, don't you think?

The overall plot was a lot more robust than in the previous movie, and I suppose that was generally a good thing, but that's me. I'm game for just watching the Muppets muck around on the screen for a good 90 minutes for the most part, hehe. Of course things don't necessarily have to make a lot of sense in the long term - you just have to accept things like how Kermit and Piggy were in love at first sight how the Happiness Hotel remains standing at all given all the Muppets inside. Come on, it's a Muppet movie!
While I didn't care much for Diana Rigg playing the stereotypical snooty rich person and it was fun to see a much younger Charles Grodin as her brother Nicky Holliday. And of course the little bit with John Cleese as the miscellaneous character Neville just worked and it was a fun interlude. The movie is filled with cameos of this nature, although present audiences will probably not realize they're cameos at all. Consequence of the passage of time, I suppose.

Again like other Muppet movies, The Great Muppet Caper isn't exactly going to change your life but it's a fun way to pass the time, especially if you love Muppet-related humor. It gets 3.5 motorcycle-riding pigs out of 5.
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