The Scoop: 1981 G, directed by Jim Henson and starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Charles Grodin
Summary Capsule: On-the-go felt try to solve a string of jewel robberies
Eunice’s Rating: 5 out of 5 trench coats and fedoras.
Eunice’s Review: So here I am, with my first free Saturday morning in about three years. Still sporting bedhead and my pajamas, a plate of homemade pancakes resting on my lap. I tune up the DVR and start The Great Muppet Caper. Happily content? You bet’cha.
As we’re told during the opening number ‘Hey, a Movie!’, Kermit and Fozzy are identical twin brothers (my favorite running gag of the movie) investigative reporters and Gonzo is their photographer. After botching a story on the theft of Lady Holiday’s (Diana Rigg [aka Emma Peel and Mrs. Bond]) jewels, they decide to get their jobs back by flying to London and get an exclusive interview with her.
They get lodgings at the Happiness Hotel, a shabby dump full of Muppet regulars (“So if you don’t mind friendly animals and can learn to stand the smell Well, welcome home, to the Happiness Hotel”). Then after a comedic misunderstanding, Kermit meets Miss Piggy who he assumes is Lady Holiday and she lets him so she can score a date. Enter the Lady’s mooch brother Nicky (Charles Grodin), a goofy man child who we’re told right away is the villain. Along with his three accomplices, criminals/models Marla, Carla, and Darla, he’s the thief, and he’s hopelessly in love with Miss Piggy to boot!
Will the Muppets solve the robberies? Will they recover the jewels? How will the unholy love triangle of pig, frog, and human play out?
Caper is the second in the original set of Muppet movies, between The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan. It continues the trend of corny jokes, groovy cameos, and catchy tunes with lyrics worth really paying attention to. And the gang’s all here (minus irritants Robin and Rizzo), the big names: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo, etc., plus named regulars like Sweetums and Statler and Waldorf, and Muppets that you’ll recognize if you watched The Muppet Show.
If Caper happens to be on while I’m getting ready to go somewhere I’ll turn it on, it’s always the scene with John Cleese strangely enough, but I probably hadn’t actually watched it beginning to end since I was ten. I’m happy to say that it still stands pretty strong. In fact I picked up on some jokes that went over my head as a kid, and I still laughed a lot through the whole movie.
Plus it’s obvious that the high quality, attention to details Henson stamp is on it. Miss Piggy’s hair alone would be enough proof of that. But even past the lovingly done puppets and costumes (Lady Holiday is a fashion designer), the choreography for the musical numbers (which I love, love, love) or the car stunts for when Beauregard is driving his cab are really great. And the technique behind the puppeteering is amazing. This is also the Muppet movie with the famous double bicycles scene that was (is still as far as I know?) a closely guarded Henson Studios secret. So technically it still works.
More importantly it is still really funny. What the Muppets have always had going for them is that they can be enjoyed by the whole family. There’s no dumbing down or patronizing tone, and while it may get silly it’s still smart at the same time. It’s a movie you can enjoy with your kids or on your own, and not feel like you’re murdering your brain cells. Classic jokes and visual humor, fantastic comedic timing and a general understanding of goofiness with the audience. Then there’s those cameos: Having not seen the beginning in a long time, the picture of Jack Warden and Kermit and Fozzy’s dad made me genuinely laugh out loud. John Cleese as Neville is excellent as always with the take on British humor. Peter Falk is bizarrely amusing as some guy Kermit meets in the park. Even Jim Henson himself pops up. And there’s so much affection for movies – the fact that everyone has trench coats and fedoras and love those Fred Astaire and Esther Williams homages!
So watch The Great Muppet Caper! It has memorable songs, funny jokes, and old fuzzy friends. Pancakes and pajamas optional.
Justin’s Rating: Ah, the good old days before Elmo, the Teletubbies, or Pokémon
Justin’s Review: Let’s cast our TimeVision back on the original star cast of the Muppets, as seen in The Muppet Caper…
- Kermit: The hapless leader, he spends a lot of time vaguely coordinating the actions of the group before falling head over heels in love with swine. Doing this, of course, despite any evidence that frogs and pigs can mate in the wild or captivity. Liking Kermit is considered old fashioned, but we miss his Sesame Street news reports — the last news we ever trusted.
- Fozzy: I think Fozzy’s sole appeal was supposed to rest on a combination of clownish looks and cheap catch phrases. Hey, it worked for the Simpsons. Fozzy is the fall guy who is always expected to take a bullet for Kermit, even though bears come higher in nature’s pecking order than amphibians.
- Gonzo: I think of Gonzo as a back-up Fozzy, there for pratfalls and stupid comments when Fozzy is too busy mauling the felt of the less fortunate. And there is something perverted going on with Gonzo’s obsession with chickens.
- Scooter: The smartest of all the gang, so naturally he gets only two lines.
- The Rats (Rizzo): I’ve always been disturbed by Rizzo and his clan. Rats are filthy, dirty creatures with no intrinsic cute factor, even with oversized eyes.
- Miss Piggy: Representing 87% of the Muppet female community, I think most women should be more offended that Henson picked a ditzy pork product to be their ambassador. M.Piggy (her street name) is constantly self-serving and shallow, but has some mean karate skills to back it up.
- Statler and Waldorf: AKA “The Muppets Whose Names I Can Never Remember How To Spell Correctly.” The most famous critics of any era… I can’t wait to be a grumpy old man!
- Sam the Eagle: Completely robbed of an Oscar for each film he’s been in, Sam deserves much more screen time and credit space. I like to think of this movie as Sam the Eagle’s Great Muppet Caper. Sam just rocks my patriotic world.
- John Cleese: While not technically a Muppet, Cleese’s extended cameo is always very welcome in a film. He does the ignorant stiff British elite act better than anyone else, while still making us giggle like fools.
- This was the last Muppet movie that Jim Henson directed before his death.
- Keep your eyes open for Jim Henson as the man that Gonzo takes a photo of in the restaurant.
- …and Peter Falk as the watch-selling storyteller in the park with Kermit
- …and Frank Oz as the bald man standing behind Gonzo when he yells “stop the presses!”
- At the Happiness Hotel everyone keeps saying there’s no kitchen and no food. However, when Beaureguard drives through the lobby, the Swedish Chef comes out of the kitchen with food.
- Animal replaces the roaring MGM lion
- End credits: Gonzo takes a picture of the whole audience and the screen goes black when he takes it because the flashbulb “blinded” the audience.
Sam the Eagle: You are all weirdos!
[Kermit is sitting on a bench. A man and his daughter walk by.]
Girl: Look, father! A bear!
Father: No, dear. That’s a frog. Bears wear hats.
Miss Piggy: You! It was you! Kermit was right. You’re a phony. You’re a PHONY. Yes, and you know what, you can’t even sing. You were dubbed!
Lady Holiday: It’s plot exposition. It has to go somewhere.
Statler: I guess all’s well that ends well.
Waldorf: I don’t care, as long as it ends.
Truck Driver: What are you doing here?
Oscar the Grouch: A very brief cameo.
Truck Driver: Me too.
Gonzo: I wonder what it would be like to do this without a balloon.
Kermit the Frog: Do what? Plummet to the ground?
Kermit the Frog: Well… I guess you could do it once.
Fozzy: Wow, a lot of people worked on this movie…
Fozzy: [about the credits] Nobody reads those things anyways, do they?
Kermit: Sure… they all have families.
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