the muppet movie blu ray 


MOVIE: Nostalgic trip to when the Muppets were great   

PICTURE: Disappointing   

SOUND: Disappointing  

TECH SPECS: 1.85:1/DTS-HD Master Audio   

RELEASE DATE: August 14, 2013  

By William Kallay

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 memories?

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 stars.

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 witty.

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 reserved.         
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