The Muppet Movie arrives on Blu-ray, right in time to perk interest for the new Muppet film that hits theaters next year. It doesn’t matter how many new Muppet movies get made, though; none can equal the charm and witty humor of the 1979 original, written by Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl and directed by James Frawley. Fresh from the success of the hilarious Muppet Show TV series, Jim Henson and his associates made The Muppet Movie a bonafide success, both critically and with theatergoers. It generated a hit soundtrack album and garnered an Academy Award nomination for the wonderful song, “The Rainbow Connection” (written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher) and won a Grammy for Best Album for Children.
Everything works in this movie. The story is a classic tale of following your dream. The script is funny, melancholy, weird and optimistic. The characters regularly break the fourth wall, creating a sense of community with the audience, as in “we’re all in this together.” And the songs are near perfect. Oh, and there are the cameos, a blend of old Hollywood and 70s hipness human cameos.
During the county fair sequence, Elliot Gould (at the peak of his popularity), Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Bob Hope and Richard Pryor all appear within minutes of each other. Elsewhere, Steve Martin (then a rising comedian) and Mel Brooks also have screen time. This was the spirit of The Muppet Show, in which you’d see Rita Moreno one week and Elton John the next and this approach worked seamlessly in The Muppet Movie.
Sadly, I feel that Disney sometimes tries to cram their stars in the new Muppet movies, how else do you explain Selena Gomez, Whoopi Gholberg and Rico Rodriquez appearing in the movie. The cast list for the new film includes Brigit Mendler, Debby Ryan and Joss Lynch. Don’t know who they are? Just ask a kid who watches the Disney Channel and they’ll tell you. Is it too far fetched to expect Iron Man and Luke Skywalker in future films?
Thankfully, Disney finally gives us The Muppet Movie on Blu-ray for children of all ages to watch for years to come. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a film should rank at the top of the best family movies, a list that would include E.T., Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It continues to entertain. Henson, Frank Oz and their motley crew of puppeteers pulled off a remarkable feat in 1979: they made a movie for the ages.
While it’s a great thing to see this Blu-ray release, what I’d really love to see is Disney invest in a complete remastering of the film. While this release definitely improves over the most recent DVD issues, the film print is still very grainy and the sound still could use some punching up. I hate to be critical of one of my favorite films. But we all know the technology is around and that this film, which was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2009, deserves to have the full kit and caboodle.
The Muppet Movie: the Original Classic- Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition comes with a digital copy of the film, as well as assorted bonus features, including Disney Intermission Frog-E-Oke Sing-Along (which mean, when you pause the film, there are some cool extra features that were shot for the Blu-ray release); Jim Frawley’s Extended Camera Test; Doc Hopper’s Extended Camera Test Commercial; Original Theatrical Trailers and Outtake Easter Eggs.