The Muppet Movie (G)
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This came out in 1979 (between the third and fourth seasons of The Muppet Show), when I was nearly four years old. I must have first seen it on TV or VHS or something, sometime in the 80s. I'm not sure if I saw it more than once, but certainly there are bits that I always remembered. And lots of parts I didn't. But I'm writing this review after watching it on DVD in 2019. And I liked (or rather loved) it much more than I remembered. I found it incredibly funny, mostly because of all the fourth wall-breaking, and puns, and running gags, and general silliness. Plus, of course, it includes some of my favorite Muppet songs ever.
The movie is framed by scenes set in a movie theater, where all the Muppets have gathered to watch the premiere of their first movie. Ostensibly, it tells the story of how they all met and traveled to Hollywood to become famous (and make people happy). The movie that they're watching begins with Kermit the Frog, singing "Rainbow Connection" in the swamp. A talent agent named Bernie (Dom DeLuise) happens by in a rowboat, and encourages Kermit to go to Hollywood, where a studio is having auditions for frogs. So, he bicycles into town, and meets a stand-up comic named Fozzie Bear. It's then that Kermit is spotted by a restaurateur named Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), who wants him to appear in commercials for his chain of restaurants, which specialize in frog's legs. Naturally, Kermit is aghast, and refuses. But Hopper (and his assistant, Max) pursue Kermit throughout the rest of the film. It gets to the point where Hopper would rather kill Kermit than accept his refusal to be his spokesfrog. (And honestly, before watching the movie on DVD, I didn't remember that that's what Hopper actually wanted. For many years, the way I remembered it was Hopper pursuing Kermit because he had large legs, for a frog, and wanted to kill him just to take his legs and cook them. Which really wouldn't have made much sense, since he couldn't have possibly sold the legs to more than one customer, anyway. But I guess that's how my mind works. Just always making everything darker than it really is.)
Anyway, Kermit and Fozzie take off in Fozzie's Studebaker, and sing another my favorite songs, "Movin' Right Along." I don't really want to get into details of exactly how they meet all the characters they meet throughout their travels. But of course they meet a band called Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, who sing yet another of my favorite Muppet songs, "Can You Picture That?" The band doesn't start traveling with them at this point, however. But Kermit and Fozzie soon meet Gonzo and his... girlfriend, I guess?... a chicken named Camilla (who, unlike all the other animal characters, doesn't speak like a human). They do begin traveling with them. They also meet a monstrous-looking character named Sweetums, who wants to join them, but they don't realize that. So they leave without him, and he starts following them on foot. (This leads to one of the things I always remembered best about the movie, near the end. I don't want to spoil it, but I will say it doesn't really make sense to me, now that I really think about it. But it's still funny.) Meanwhile, they meet Miss Piggy, who falls in love with Kermit at first sight, and sings a song I didn't remember at all ("Never Before, Never Again"), and don't particularly care for. And I guess Kermit sort of falls for her, too. They end up going on a date, which Piggy eventually (apparently) bails on. That leads into another plot point that I don't want to get into (other than to say Piggy turns out to be a badass). But before that, Kermit is depressed about her leaving him, and he meets a piano player named Rowlf the Dog, with whom he sings a song I vaguely remember, called "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along" (though possibly from having heard it years later, elsewhere, and didn't actually remember from whenever I first saw the movie). Anyway, Rowlf also joins the travelers.
Piggy eventually rejoins them. And Gonzo has a song called "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" (which I definitely knew, but definitely not from this movie). Then they're also rejoined by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. And then they meet Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. And there's a final showdown with Doc Hopper and his hired goons. And finally the Muppets all get to Hollywood, where they meet studio executive Lew Lord (Orson Welles), who immediately signs them all to a contract, without even auditioning. So, we see them start making their movie... and their efforts don't seem nearly as good as the actual movie we've been watching. But they do sing something called "Finale: The Magic Store," which I mostly didn't remember, but I think it's okay. It includes some verses about making their movie, then a version of "Rainbow Connection" with altered lyrics. And the song ends with some brief lines that I did remember, just something... inspirational. And of course, it all ends up back in the movie theater, where we can see the Muppets' reactions to the movie they (and we) have just watched.
Well... I have, believe it or not, left out lots of details of the plot. But I can't stress enough what a fun (and crazy) movie this is. And there are so many cameos by familiar actors, in various roles. The ones who were most familiar to me included Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Cloris Leachman... and there were others who were less familiar to me, as well as some who weren't familiar to me at all. I also feel like saying there were things about the movie that reminded me of some later Muppet movies. I don't want to spoil those things here and now, but hopefully whenever I get around to reviewing those movies, I'll remember what I was thinking about this movie, and mention it in those reviews. Other than that, I guess I don't know what else to say.