Directed by James Frawley, USA, 1979, G.
Jim Henson’s Muppets hit the big screen for the first time in this gag-filled musical extravaganza from 1979. Its an origin story of sorts, with Kermit the Frog setting off from his swampy home in search of fame and fortune in Hollywood. Along the way he teams up with many of his Muppet pals; Fozzie the Bear, Gonzo and, of course, Miss Piggy. Unfortunately his talents also attract the attention of restaurant impresario Doctor Hooper, who wants to exploit Kermit’s singing and dancing ability to promote his chain of fried frog legs eateries. But Kermit could never sell out (“All I can see is millions of frogs on tiny crutches”), so must elude Doc Hopper and his nefarious crew with the help of his new friends and still make it to Hollywood in time for his audition.
Riffing on the backstage antics of their TV show, The Muppet Movie is hilariously self-aware of its own movie-ness. Kermit assures us that he does all his own stunts and helpfully points out the running gags, while the screenplay can always be whipped out to explain away any plot holes. The film’s frequent breaking of the fourth wall serves to make the characters we know and love even more human and relatable without sacrificing their Muppet charm. There are winking cameos by a who’s who of 70s showbiz; including Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor and Orson Welles as Lew Lord, parodying The Muppet Show’s real life producer Lew Grade. The songs by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher have stood the test of time, especially the iconic opener “Rainbow Connection”, an unlikely froggy Billboard hit.
“Jolson sang, Barrymore spoke, Garbo laughed, and now Kermit the Frog rides a bicycle... If you can figure out how they were able to show Kermit pedaling across the screen, then you are less a romantic than I am: I prefer to believe he did it himself.” – Roger Ebert
“With charm for the kids and in-jokes for their parents (when Kermit’s bicycle gets mangled, he quips, ‘I thought I was gone with the Schwinn’), Muppet creator Jim Henson tries to give everybody a little something.” – People