Great Muppet Caper (The)
R1 - America - Disney/Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and David Cormack (18th May 2006).
The Film

The year was 1981; Harrison Ford was raiding lost arks. Romans were struggling when their chariots caught fire as slow motion music played (Chariots of Fire) and Zorro the Gay Blade was released on an unsuspecting audience. There was also a film out there so daring, so politically charged and so well acted that if the world could only be sat down in an enormous world sized theatre to watch it, everything would be ok. I am of course talking about The Great Muppet Caper the Collins dictionary defines caper as:

Caper: n 1. skip 2. frolic 3. escapade 4. skip,dance.

Does the caper in the title refer to a great Muppet skip? A frolic? No itís an escapade (Bearing in mind, the Collins dictionary I used doesnít have s**t, f*** or c*** in it so I donít how much stock you can put in what IT says. Itís not even a reputable dictionary. I donít know of any Collins University, do you? No exactly. I only used it because I couldnít find my Oxford one.)
So bearing in mind that this film sure does have a caper in it, and yes there are definitely Muppets in it, is it great thus making the title an honest one? In short yes, in long no.
A brief rundown on the story maestro: Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) and Fozzie Bear (Frank Oz) are newspaper reporters sent to London to interview Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg) who is a wealthy fashion designer. Suddenly! Lady Holidayís jewels are stolen. GASP! In pursuit of the solution Kermit meets Lady Holidayís secretary, the divine Miss Piggy (also voiced by Frank Oz) and promptly falls in love with the swine (come on, weíve all been drunk and found the fat girl hot, frogs could permanently be drunk, especially felt ones).
Then the jewel thieves hit again. Curse those pesky jewel thieves! But this time Miss Piggy is framed for the crime. Can Kermit and Fozzie solve the case and prove Miss Piggy innocent?
Youíll have to sit through a lot of musical interludes and celebrity cameos to find out. But thatís not really the point of a Muppet movie is it?
Now on to the review part:
I always like to point out the positives in any films first so weíll go from there. The acting is outstanding. Miss Piggy puts in a performance of porcine perfection and whilst her range far outweighs that of her green froggy companion she has the acting clout to not come across as a scene stealing ham (ba-boom-tish). That really was the high point of the film. A puppetís acting ability. The problem I had with this film is the same I have with many of my childhood memories.
As you get older you build up this romantic notion of what something was like back in the day. Be it the Muppets, other TV shows, summers, school days etc but the reality doesnít tend to be reflected in your retelling. I had some trepidation before I watched this film that this would be the case and sadly my fears were confirmed. In my mind the Muppets was the pinnacle of childrenís television, it was so good that any one of any age could enjoy it.
I suppose comedy dates faster than any other genre (except maybe horror) so it would be easy to shake this off as just Ďoldí but it goes further than that. Both John Cleese and Peter Ustinov - two brilliant actors in their own rights - do the biggest phone in of a performance ever. Yes they are acting with felt puppets but you feel as if they couldíve tried a little harder. The jokes are lame (see my ham joke earlier? Yeah they actually use that one in the film) and it just drags.
The musical numbers are pretty tight and Iím sure in 10 years time when I talk about this film itíll be the musical numbers that Iíll remember the most and by that stage the film will be brilliant but no Disneyís The Lion King (1994) is this.
It also goes on for far too long. A childrenís movie should be in the 80-90 minute range. Much more than that and the little buggersí attention spans start to wane considerably. This film clocks in at a ridiculous 1 hour 40 where even I was growing tired of the pun based humour (note to everyone, puns arenít funny-ever).
Iíd like to close by saying if you remember The Muppet Show (1976-1981) being one of the greatest shows ever like I did, donít watch this film, it just spoils a cherished memory.

Video

Presented in the filmís original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 however the disc also includes a 1.33:1 full screen version as well. Below is a look at both these transfers.
The 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer is not the best. I truly wish someone would take the time and present these films with decent restored transfers. The widescreen transfer isnít sharp, there are compression artefacts all throughout it and film grain is evident and occasionally heavy. I noticed minor pixilation as well as print damage by way of the occasional scratch. Colors are generally ok, however reds do bleed especially in the dark room scene, blacks are bold however waver in and out of murkiness. The print is not clean at all however itís still watch able (for kids anyway) cinephiles may find it hard to sit through this one.
The 1.33:1 full screen transfer is even worse, all the same problems exhibited with the widescreen are all here, except compression artefacts are much heavier in this print and grain is much more prominent.

Audio

This film includes two audio tracks, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround as well as a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack. Much like the transfer I was entirely under whelmed with this effort, although dialogue is clear, I found this track lacking depth and failed to immerse the viewer in the experience, the music was well separated throughout the surround channels however thatís all this track managed to do well.
Optional subtitles are also included in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

The featurette included is entitled "Pepe Profiles Presents: Miss Piggy, The Diva Who Would Not Be Denied" which runs for 5 minutes 39 seconds. This is a sort of True Hollywood Story type clip that includes friends of Miss Piggy talking about her and her career and also features an interview with the famous pig. This clip is obviously meant for kids but the puns and gags get tiring even after a few minutes.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers for:
- "Lady and the Tramp" DVD promo spot which runs for 1 minute 4 seconds.
- "Disney's Movie Surfers" promo clip, this is a highlight clip that previews two movies The Wild and The Shaggy Dog and runs for 2 minutes 36 seconds.
- "The Muppet Show: Season 1" on DVD promo spot which runs for 1 minute 32 seconds.
- "The Muppet Wizard of Oz" on DVD promo spot which runs for 1 minute 34 seconds.
- "Radio Disney" promo spot that runs for 31 seconds.

The first four listed are start-up previews and play before the menu, these can be skipped by pressing the Menu button on your remote.

Overall

The Film: D Video: C- Audio: B Extras: E Overall: D+

 


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