Accounting for inflation, the original “Muppet Movie” (1979) is still far and away the most successful of the franchise, including the disappointing and unnecessarily political 2011 reboot. And “nearly” 35 years later it is easy to see why. (I put quotes around “nearly” because this first-ever Bluray release is titled “The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition“.)
The Muppets’ movie-within-a-road-movie has lost none of its charm, thanks to non-stop in-jokes, beta-jokes, running jokes, bad puns, over a dozen guest cameos (many of them superstars at the time), and a charming moment of irony-free patriotism courtesy of Fozzie Bear. In this era of ironic distance and bathroom humor (which also hurt the 2011 reboot), the “Muppet Movie” feels outright subversive.
The story opens on a swamp with Kermit singing the wistful, unforgettable (and Oscar-nominated) “Rainbow Connection.” Dom Deluise rows by and plants the idea in the frog’s mind that in Hollywood the opportunity awaits to make millions of people happy. So it is off to La-La Land we go, meeting all your favorite Muppets and comedians along the way (Richard Pryor, Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen, Steve Martin, and many more…).
The jokes come at you about every thirty seconds, but even when you are groaning you are laughing. What is truly amazing, though, is that as crude and simple as most of the Muppets are (especially Kermit), you immediately believe they are real. That, of course, is a real tribute to Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and the rest of the artists whose puppeteer and voice talents defy description.
Another Muppet film, “Muppets Most Wanted,” arrives next spring. Hopefully it will be less divisive than its predecessor. In the meantime, the first and best will be available on Bluray next week, and after “nearly” thirty-five years, we can safely declare it timeless.
“The Muppet Movie” hits Bluray August 13 and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.