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  Great Muppet Caper, The This Frog Is News
Year: 1981
Director: Jim Henson
Stars: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Charles Grodin, Diana Rigg, John Cleese, Robert Morley, Peter Ustinov, Jack Warden, Erica Creer, Kate Howard, Della Finch, Michael Robbins, Joan Sanderson, Tommy Godfrey, Peter Falk
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kermit the Frog (voiced and performed by Jim Henson), Fozzie Bear (Frank Oz) and Gonzo the Great (Dave Goelz) are flying high in a hot air balloon, waiting for the film to start and reading the opening credits. Gonzo wonders what it would feel like to plummet to the ground, but is dissuaded from trying the experience by the other two. Once the credits are over, they wonder how they'll get down, a question answered when the balloon swiftly drops into a city street and Kermit decides this is the cue for a song. The plot is then set out: Kermit and Fozzie are identical twin reporters and Gonzo is their photographer, so now all they need is something to report on: Gonzo spies a chicken, but this distracts them all from a real story across the street. Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg) has just had her diamond necklace stolen!

The follow up to The Muppet Movie was by no means as successful as its predecessor, but over the years has found a loyal audience of fans, and if the songs were not as good, it was easily as funny as the first film, and just as rambling in its narrative. The script was written by Jerry Juhl, Tom Patchett, Jack Rose and Jay Tarses, and as if to point out how flimsy it is, basically an excuse for the gags and musical numbers, the Muppets are eager to break the fourth wall and discuss among themselves the finer details of making the film. All this offers a casual, even ramshackle air to the proceedings that easily wins over sympathetic viewers.

As with the television series, there are guest stars, and as this is a British film a fair few are from the United Kingdom, with the likes of John Cleese, Robert Morley and Peter Ustinov appearing to bask in the reflected glory of their puppet co-stars. But it's the Muppets who are the centre of attention, and there is a real display of affection for the golden age of Hollywood, only here Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest are playing the roles of those past greats, with Piggy in a Busby Berkeley production number or two, or Kermit as the resourceful hero. Yet this nostalgia is amusingly undercut by the fact that, well, they're puppets and comical puppets into the bargain; saying that, you never doubt for a second that they're not living and breathing people, such is the skill with which they're performed.

It takes almost half the movie for the story to get going, such are the distractions, but you don't really mind. Our intrepid trio of newspapermen are sent to London to cover the theft of Lady Holiday's diamonds, and after being ignominiously thrown from the aeroplane while flying over Britain, they find a hotel which just happens to house most of the other Muppets and then it's off to Lady Holiday's fashion establishment for a interview. Unfortunately it's her new secretary they mistake for her, and she is Miss Piggy who is immediately smitten with Kermit (but of course) and she sets up a date between them. Friendship is, as usual, the most important thing to the Muppets, and this is illustrated when Kermit wishes to go on the fancy date alone, only to realise he has hurt Fozzie's feelings; then the rest of the Muppets tag along, too. Charles Grodin is entertainingly ridiculous as Lady Holiday's unscrupulous brother, and if you don't laugh at him falling in love with Piggy this is not the film for you. It's little wonder there's such warm feeling towards the Muppets when they were so expertly staged as this. Music by Joe Raposo.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Jim Henson  (1936 - 1990)

American puppeteer and creator of the Muppets whose career took off when his puppets were used on children's show Sesame Street. The Muppets got their own show in the seventies, which was successful enough to make the jump to the big screen with The Muppet Movie and its sequels.

In the eighties, Henson went on to direct The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, which both featured his puppets extensively, and on television he came up with Fraggle Rock and The Storyteller.

 
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