Director: James Frawley
Cast: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear
Watch The Muppet Movie online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Have you ever wondered what The Blues Brothers would look like if, instead of Jake and Elwood, the road tripping duo on a majestic mission – via a funky church and on the run from a suspicious organisation – were instead a frog and a bear? Well, you need only look a year earlier to 1979’s The Muppet Movie.
In the troupe’s first big screen outing, Kermit the Frog decides to try and make it in Hollywood and recruits local failed comedian Fozzy Bear as a partner. Kermit and Fozzy spend their adventure chased by Doc Hopper (Charles Durning’s dastardly frogs’ legs entrepreneur) and bumping into minor celebrities, such as Mel Brooks, Steve Martin and Elliot Gould, and some major celebrities, such as Orson Welles and a certain big bird. Surreal and heart-warming, The Muppets Movie does not disappoint simply by being 35 years old. In 2014, it remains colourful, carefree and charming.
The Muppet Movie’s greatest achievement – aside from the waves of wonder and joy – is its ability to perform difficult, risky feats and yet appear still light-hearted and effortless. This is shown masterfully in its ability to self-reference. At one point, in order to explain their trip so far, Kermit simply hands another character the screenplay so as not to bore the audience – at which Fozzy stares directly down the camera and agrees. In spite of the fuzzy cast, the film is directed primarily at an adult audience – it does feature Richard Pryor, after all. It’s witty, self-aware and opens with Kermit’s swamp-based heart-wrencher, Rainbow Connection, which was not only nominated for an Oscar, but also displayed the first ever puppet legs on screen. Quite an achievement – until 10 minutes later, when a puppet is shown riding a bicycle.
Kermit’s journey, especially viewed now, comes across as more like a Saturday Night Live production that a film with puppets. It’s brilliantly written by Jerry Juhl and Jack Burns and has a near incomparable sense of fun. Inducted into the National Film Registry in 2009, it serves as the milestone for The Muppets as a universally loved cast of fabric, strings and halved ping-pong balls with hearts of gold and a precise sense of humour that’s accessible to everyone.