Connor Loyd is a movie critic for the Samford Crimson. The views expressed in this opinion article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Samford Crimson or Samford University.
“The Muppet Movie” is a classic family comedy that follows Kermit the Frog as he journeys across America with his sights set on Hollywood stardom. In the process, he befriends the other iconic characters in the Muppets lineup for the first time. During his adventure, Kermit tries to evade the clutches of Doc Hopper, the persistent owner of a frog-legs restaurant, who wants nothing more than for Kermit to sell his product.
The movie came out in the late 1970s as Jim Henson’s “The Muppet Show” was really beginning to hit its stride. “The Muppet Movie” was the first of many Muppet-themed movies that would be released in the years to come.
The film is unabashedly sincere in a way that you rarely see anymore. It wears its heart right on its green felt sleeve, and while the movie is crammed full of humor and gags, they never come after or attack the actual emotional throughline of the story. While the over-the-top bits and larger-than-life characters may seem at home in something like “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” you would never see Graham Chapman’s King Arthur talk about his dreams, doubts and feelings like Kermit does, without a hint of irony. That balance of complete irreverence and total sincerity is nearly impossible to pull off, but it’s one of the things I love most about this film and the Muppets in general.
That balancing act would not work nearly as well if the jokes weren’t as funny as they are. The movie moves at a fast pace, throwing joke after joke at the audience which range from thoughtful and clever to some of the corniest puns you’ve ever heard. I appreciate both in equal measure, though that’s admittedly a matter of personal taste; I personally love puns, especially corny ones.
These jokes also include some extremely meta moments for a time when that was fairly uncommon, especially in family movies. The entire film is set around the frame story of the Muppets watching the movie itself at a private screening. At one moment of the film, the characters are rescued when the Electric Mayhem read the script in order to find out where the others have gotten stranded.
There are things that should be problems in this movie, things which would be issues in any other film. The villain’s motivation gets lost along the way, becoming less about convincing Kermit to join him and more about simply catching and killing him. There are some plot lines that go away only to turn back up a few scenes later with seemingly no purpose. But the tone and playfulness with which the movie presents every scene really makes it to where these issues feel insignificant.
What even is there to say about the cast? Giving a good performance can be difficult even when you’re not below the screen and out of sight, but each puppeteer in the main ensemble is at the top of their game in this one. These are their characters, and they know exactly how to get the most out of themselves and out of each other. The movie is also chock-full of celebrity cameos. When I first saw the film as a kid, I had no clue who these people were, so it was rewarding to rewatch and recognize celebrities like Bob Hope and Mel Brooks.
Then there’s the music. Even people who have never seen this movie have almost definitely heard “Rainbow Connection,” the movie’s opening and closing number, at some point in their lives. The earnest, heartfelt tune was nominated for “Best Original Song” at the Academy Awards, and many agree that its loss that year was a mistake on the Academy’s part. “Movin’ Right Along,” Kermit and Fozzie’s Studebaker-driving duet, is a bouncy earworm that combines wordplay and visual gags to excellent effect. It’s a great number for picking up the mood on a long car ride. My personal favorite, however, has to be “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday.” Sung by Gonzo in a vulnerable and intimate manner rarely seen from the buoyant and chaotic character, the song and the feelings it describes resonate with me on such a personal level that I feel slightly embarrassed even writing about it.
For anyone who hasn’t checked this movie out before, or even if it’s been a while, I highly recommend giving it a watch.