THE SCREENING ROOM
By William Kallay
trip to when the Muppets were great
TECH SPECS: 1.85:1/DTS-HD Master Audio
RELEASE DATE: August 14, 2013
Nostalgia can play tricks on the mind. Certain movies,
songs, and even TV shows from our youth play with our heads
and cause us to believe that the good old days were better.
The Muppets were a huge part of my childhood. Nearly every
Saturday night, I'd watch their antics on television and I
couldn't wait to see who was guest starring on the show.
When "The Muppet Movie" came to theatres in 1979, there was
great anticipation. The Jim Hensen creation was at the top
of its popularity. This was going to be a fun movie! There
was nothing like seeing all the Muppets on the big screen. I
loved every cameo, every joke, every song, and every Miss
Piggy freak-out. The film turned out to be a big hit and
eventually spawned mediocre sequels over the years. It was
that first movie that always had a place in my heart, and
oddly enough, I haven't seen it since 1979.
Revisiting "The Muppet Movie" nearly 35 years later, I had a
tremendous feeling that I'd fall back in love with this
film. The charm was intact, as well as some very funny
lines, but the overall fun feeling I got back in
1979 didn't affect me this time around. Did the Muppets seem
funnier back then? Or has age warped my young innocent
Being a kid in the 1970s was exciting. Kids my age got to
experience the heyday of the great popular movies such as
"The Exorcist," "Jaws," "Star Wars," "Close Encounters of
the Third Kind," "Grease," and "Alien." We also got to
experience trash such as "Audrey Rose," "Orca," and "Battle
Beyond the Stars." Great rock bands came in the form of The
Eagles, Boston, Foreigner, and Fleetwood Mac. On the other
end of that we got to listen to some really awful disco. We
also experienced TV that we thought was brilliant and
hilarious, like "The Bob Newhart Show," but we also thought
that "Happy Days" was the pinnacle of high quality
television. The Muppets fell into a spot of being brilliant
to us. But what was funny in the 1970s doesn't necessarily
hold up as funny today.
"The Muppet Movie" is very much a movie of its time, and
there is nothing at all wrong with that. This is a film that
embraced the smart antics of its cast of lovable characters
and didn't apologize for it. The Muppets under Jim Henson,
Frank Oz and many talented artists helped entertain a
generation of children and their parents. The original
television show was hilarious, but it also had jokes that
appealed to older kids and their parents. The film takes
what was hilarious on the TV screen and expands it well.
Using the road movie template, the film showcases the
Muppets' rise to fame. Kermit the Frog is discovered singing
in his swamp by a big time agent (Dom DeLuis). Kermit sets
off on a journey to Hollywood and meets Fozzie Bear, Gonzo,
and Miss Piggy along the way. At every stop, there are
cameos by some of the biggest stars of the 1970s: James
Coburn, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane and many more. The
funniest, especially for the time period, was the appearance
of Steve Martin as the snooty waiter. In watching the film
today, I couldn't help but be nostalgic for seeing these
Director James Frawley directed mostly in television prior
to "The Muppet Movie," though he had made a few feature
films. He directs the Muppets and human cast with
confidence. The pacing is very quick and sometimes the jokes
need to be rewound so they can be heard again. The film is
As much as I remembered liking "The Muppet Movie," it
doesn't hold up as well as I remembered. The one-liners are
very funny, but some of the characters that I once adored
have worn off in my eyes. I used to think that Fozzie was
hilarious with his bad jokes, but he didn't resonate with me
this time around. Kermit has always been a likable character
and that hasn't changed here. My favorite character is Miss
Piggy. Frank Oz must have an adoration for her because she
has so much life. I found myself smiling as she went into
"hi-ya!" mode during a fight scene against Mel Brooks and
his dastardly henchmen. Overall, the film still entertains,
but it's not as funny as I remember. Age might have dulled
my sense of humor a little.
Seeing "The Muppet Movie" brought back memories of my
childhood, no doubt. Will today's kids enjoy it? Probably
they will, but they will undoubtedly ask, "Who's that guy?"
when the cameos come up.
The Blu-ray picture quality is disappointing. Normally,
Disney digitally cleans many of their classic animated
features to the point of being sterile. Oddly enough, "The
Muppet Movie" is covered in heavy grain that is noticeable
from the opening scene. Readers of this site know I have no
issue with film grain as long as it's natural to the film.
Maybe my memory isn't as clear as it used to be, but I don't
recall this film looking so grainy. Disney might have not
had the best film elements to work from.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also disappointing.
"The Muppet Movie" was one of the early films to use Dolby
Stereo. The film also went out to select theatres in 70mm
Six-Track Dolby Stereo. Movies released in 70mm Six-Track
Dolby Stereo during the 1970s usually sounded excellent.
This high quality soundtrack option predated today's
multichannel digital soundtracks.
I never saw the 70mm version of this film, but much of this
soundtrack is very much in mono, with the exception of the
score and some random sound effects. The dialogue is
squelched and sounds like many mono soundtracks of the 1970s
-- brittle and thin. The score is subdued and lifeless
without much high fidelity. I'm not sure if Disney used the
mono soundtrack stems and then remixed the sound into 5.1
surround, or if the 70mm print master just wasn't available.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photo: © Disney. All rights
Best viewed on Google Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer