Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Off the Shelf…’The Great Muppet Caper’

Personally speaking, it is rare that a film is able to stand up to the ever-changing tastes of the viewer and, nostalgia aside, that film stands the test of time and age groups. While this is no Gone With the Wind or Casablanca, this is a fun movie that I enjoy as much now as I did when I was a child. Few filmmaking studios have consistently made quality films that appeal to all age groups and for different reasons. Jim Henson Studios, a truly crafted troupe of artisans and entertainers, changed the world with high-profile and crowd pleasing ‘puppet theater’.

The long running and ever fascinating “Muppet” films capture the imagination of kids and still are able to keep parents entertained. Some would say that Shrek was the first series made for grown ups but with graphics and characters to appeal to children. Well, sorry Shrek fans, Jim Henson (with a similarly likable green lead character funny enough) got there first…

The Great Muppet Caper finds the familiar Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and Miss Piggy in Great Britain in a Henson take on a heist film. Ambitious for a kids film, don’t you think? Anyway, while the locale, characters and plot were too advanced for most children, the singing, the comedy and easily kept them (and me) entertained. Having Charles Grodin as a villain was a plus to the parents, as no doubt they grew up with him just as, at the time, we were growing up with The Muppets. Further, he was kid friendly enough but having someone with actual talent (even for a kids movie) made this film something more. It elevated above the “twirling mustache” type of villain you’d get somewhere else.

Thinking back, this was the film I watched more than any other as a kid. But nostalgia be damned, it’s not just the memories that make this movie stand up. As I wrote above, The Great Muppet Caper has a plot line that can keep adults entertained with their jokes while the kids can laugh just looking at and listening to the Muppets. This extremely self-aware film has more than a handful of jokes that fully acknowledge that they are making a movie. Seems like every 20 minutes or so there’s a very subtle or clever quip and seeing it again now, it just gets funnier and funnier. For example, Diana Rigg has just finished up her 2 minute monologue, then Miss Piggy asks why she’s being told that information and Rigg answers “Well its plot exposition, it has to go somewhere”. Now that I’m older that just makes me laugh, but as a kid I confusedly would just look at my parents and wonder why they were laughing and then eagerly await the next song.

As per the Muppet Show and previous film (The Muppet Movie) The Great Muppet Caper is chock full of celebrities either in the lead or making cameos (including a funny anti-Columbo Peter Falk). However being as this is film featuring British talent, as a kid I didn’t know who anyone was. Hell, aside from Diana Rigg and John Cleese I still don’t.

One thing I have found lack of interest in films from my past are the sheer number of songs and musical numbers. When I was young, sure I liked them, but now, they just seem to get in the way of the story. While I still like some musicals, this (nostalgia aside) is borderline passable. I guess if you stripped out the “musical element” from a kids movie, you’d have trouble keeping their attention…and the movie would be about 30 minutes long.

All in all, taking a trip down memory lane, some of the magic in this film admittedly is lost over the years. Yet despite the slightly dated look, the jokes are funnier now that I get a lot more of them, and in my mind, the Muppets will never get old. Even as I watched this with my wife, she said “I like this and it’s cute but it is a kids movie“. I have to agree, but as with anything from loved from our past, that kid part has a hard time letting go. Loving this as a kid and still adoring as adult for different reasons makes this movie a definite treat. Fine work Henson, fine work!

G-S-T Ruling – 4/5

G-S-T Seal of Approval – GRANTED