(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: The Great Muppet Caper
Where You Can Stream It: Disney+
The Pitch: Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo inexplicably play journalists in this movie. When they botch the reporting of a jewel heist, they must travel to London and interview the famous fashion designer whose jewels were ripped off in order to solve the case. Romance, mystery, and comedy ensue in pure Muppet fashion.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Because it’s joyous, ridiculous, raucous, and super fun. This movie is notable because it’s Jim Henson’s feature directorial debut, and he throws every trick he has at this thing, resulting in an ambitious, technically impressive, and hilarious film that makes its case for being among the top two Muppet films of all time. (This list on our own site disagrees with that assessment, but I beg to differ.)
This was my favorite Muppet movie as a kid, and watching it again now for the first time in many years, I loved it even more. There are so many jokes that flew over my head upon first viewing, like when the excellent Diana Rigg breaks the fourth wall by directly addressing the idea of an exposition dump, or Miss Piggy calling out the villain for having his singing voice dubbed. There are meta jokes and cameos galore, but it’s never too much. Sometimes meta humor can take you so far out of a story that it’s difficult to care about what’s going on, but here, Henson is able to keep the film just grounded enough that you buy into the premise and are actually invested in what happens.
The plot is just as silly as you remember: it involves Kermit and Fozzie being identical twins, a case of mistaken identity with Miss Piggy posing as the illustrious Lady Holiday, a blooming love affair between Piggy and Kermit, and a gang of thieves scheming to steal Lady Holiday’s “fabulous Baseball Diamond.” Naturally, the villain (Charles Grodin, 100% committed to the bit) falls in love with Miss Piggy at first sight, leading to some of the movie’s best moments.
But as goofy as it all is, I also found it to be genuinely exciting. It’s clear Henson wasn’t interested in making any part of this easy for himself: the opening backlot number has tons of moving parts to it, the heist component late in the film is executed to perfection (there’s a great pre-heist checklist sequence that cuts back and forth between the good guys and bad guys), and there’s even a huge Busby Berkeley/Esther Williams fantasy sequence that looked like it must have been hell to shoot.
And don’t sleep on the music, either. Yes, there are a couple of duds sprinkled throughout (looking at you, “Night Life”), but I watched this several days ago and still have lines from the great “Hey A Movie!” stuck in my head.
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/Film – ‘Slash Film: The Quarantine Stream: Stop the Presses! ‘The Great Muppet Caper’ is Wonderful’
Author: Ben Pearson
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January 25, 2021