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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

Fozzie: Kermit, what if we drift out to sea? What if we're never heard from again? What if there's a storm, or, we get struck by lightning?
Gonzo: That would be neat!
Kermit: Listen, nothing's gonna happen. This is just the opening credits.

- Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jim Henson

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: July 12, 2001

Stars: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Steve Whitmire, Louise Gold, Kathryn Mullen, Diana Rigg, Charles Grodin
Other Stars: John Cleese, Robert Morley, Peter Ustinov, Jack Warden, Peter Falk, Carroll Spinney
Director: Jim Henson

MPAA Rating: G for (no objectionable content)
Run Time: 01h:37m:47s
Release Date: July 10, 2001
UPC: 043396056183
Genre: family


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- CA-B- C-

DVD Review

So the Muppets conquer Los Angeles, where do you take them next? Why, England, of course! At least that's what Jim Henson thought when he made The Great Muppet Caper, the follow-up to 1979s' The Muppet Movie. English fashion designer Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg) has had some jewels stolen, and Kermit (Jim Henson), Fozzie (Frank Oz), and Gonzo (Dave Goelz), being two press reporters and a photographer, respectively, go to England to solve the case. While trying to interview Lady Holiday, Kermit runs into Miss Piggy (Oz), and mistakes her for Holiday. Meanwhile, Lady Holiday's brother, Nicky (Charles Grodin), is the one stealing her jewels, and when he steals a diamond necklace, he plants it on Piggy. It falls to Kermit and his friends to clear Piggy's name and convict the true thieves.

I'll say this straight out, The Great Muppet Caper has the best Muppet sight gag and cameo appearance of any Muppet movie. Fozzie and Kermit are supposedly identical twins, despite looking nothing alike. In the beginning of the movie, we see a picture of their father: a Muppet with Fozzie's body, but Kermit's color and eyes. I laughed for three minutes straight when I saw it. I want to see a separate movie based on their dad; he's too good of a character to waste in one sight gag. And the best cameo award goes to: Peter Ustinov. Not just because he's Peter Ustinov (which should be reason enough), but because of someone else who also makes a small cameo. A cameo within a cameo, we shall say.

The movie is filled with plenty of delightful moments. Charles Grodin seducing Miss Piggy is especially funny. More than any other Muppet film, however, this one has a self-referential quality that is somewhat distracting. Much of the humor is derived from lines such as, "Piggy, you're overacting. You're hamming it up," or the quote at the top of the page. Not that this is necessarily bad, but too much of a good thing.... However, the tongue-in-cheek style is necessary, because this movie has some of the most elaborate songs and dances of any Muppet movie. Take, for example, a choreographed dance at an upscale restaurant, where everyone in the restaurant gets in on the dance, or a synchronized swimming scene, done in a giant pool. These are just two of the overly ambitious dances. Without the self-referential humor, the movie would look hopelessly pretentious, despite the fact that there are Muppets participating in the dances.

Every Muppet feature has catchy songs; every Muppet feature except for this one. Sure, it has songs; it's just that they're no good. They run from schmaltzy to cheesy and back again. Usually, the disarming nature of the way the Muppets sing add charm to this type of thing, but here the music is so bad that it can't be saved. The very worst song is when Kermit takes Piggy out for a date, and the Muppet band play what amounts to a disco song. That's right, Muppet disco. Surely that must be a sign of the Apocalypse. Ultimately, this is the major downfall of the film.

Also, be sure to leave logic at the door when you watch this. The most gaping logical flaw is that Lady Holiday, an English fashion designer, has an American brother. All right, perhaps I'm nitpicking, but although the brother is played by the great Charles Grodin, it still took me right out of the movie. In fact, I don't see why they set it in England at all. The only reason that plot device seems to exist is so they could make a joke about throwing Muppets off an airplane. Perhaps it's supposed to evoke memories of Sherlock Holmes, but in Holmes stories you don't know who did the deed; here you know it from the opening number.

It all makes me wonder, who did they make this movie for? A lot of the jokes will go right over kids' heads (jokes about dubbing, parodies of opera, Charles Grodin's sideburns), as will most of the cameos (Peter Falk, Peter Ustinov, Jack Warden). Adults will be turned off by the bad music and the accompanying overblown dances. True, the mix of musicals with comedy for both children and adults are what make the Muppet movies so entertaining, but in this case, they seem mutually exclusive (and I'm taking away extra points for perhaps the most boring John Cleese cameo I've ever seen). I think Henson felt he had to repeat the formula of The Muppet Movie in order for The Great Muppet Caper to be a success, but he fell prey to the "bigger is better" fallacy, leaving us with a movie that alternates between hilarity and tedium.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: The opening scenes of The Great Muppet Caper, being exterior wide shots, look exceedingly grainy. But while dirt is evident throughout the rest of the film, overall the opening scenes look the worst. The rest of the film is far more clear, and the aforementioned dust does not dominate. Colors are nicely rendered, and I found no bleeding or compression artifacts. Mostly a pleasing image.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Strangely, the default audio setting for this disc is to Dolby Surround 2.0. As such, I listened to a bit of that track before switching over to the 5.1 mix. And I have to say, for a 2.0 mix, it's very clear and spacious. The sad part is that I hardly noticed a difference when I turned to the 5.1 mix. The rears were barely used and as for bass, well, forget it. I was mad about not having a 5.1 mix on The Muppets Take Manhattan, but had I known there wouldn't be a difference, I would have been content with a good 2.0 mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Buddy, Muppets In Space, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and Elmo In Grouchland
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: Unknown

Extra Extras:
  1. Muppetisms
Extras Review: On the The Muppets Take Manhattan disc, I found that the Muppetisms somehow approached the level of absurdist humor masterpieces. Here, only the Kermit one is anywhere near as brilliant, as the Animal one is just Animal being himself, and the Statler & Waldorf one is pretty inane. Also, we get the requisite trailers for Buddy, Muppets In Space, The Muppets Take Manhattan and Elmo In Grouchland. I still find it interesting that all the trailers aside from The Muppets Take Manhattan are all in 5.1 sound.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

While it has some magic moments, The Great Muppet Caper isn't one of the crown jewels of the Muppet collection of media. Stick with the first movie or the TV show.

 


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