Movie Marathon VI – The Muppets

Luke Owen takes in a Muppet movie marathon…

Where 3 guys (this time joined by girlfriends and children) watch franchise movies one after the others. This marathon is sponsored by pizza.

(This was back in December, so I’m a bit late on the report – sorry!)

It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to get things started on the Muppet Movie Marathon (it sort of fits the theme).

The last five marathon meetings have been a bit morbid in tone. Four of them have been about teenagers avoiding death and the other was centred around the human race losing out to apes. With that in mind (and it being a festive season), we decided to go with something a bit lighter in tone – The Muppets.

Since I was a kind, I loved The Muppets and have always said that they can do no wrong in my eyes. Even when they were producing sub-par programming like Muppet Tonight, I was behind them 100%. This year I even had the privilege of meeting Kermit and Miss Piggy following a press screening of the latest Muppet reboot. So, as you could well imagine, I was a little bit excited for this marathon…

10:48 – The Muppet Movie

Starting a bit later than usual (my fault), we dived into the first big screen adventure for The Muppets. As basically an allegory for the rise of Jim Henson, The Muppet Movie sees Kermit leave the swamp to find fame and fortune in Hollywood. Along the way he meets some new friends in the form of Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Electric Mayhem and the love of his life Miss Piggy. It’s a wonderfully bizarre movie filled with a plethora of cameos, wonderful gags, excellent songs and just a beautiful warm feeling. The smile that spread across my face from the opening moments of the movie never left until after the credits had rolled. An excellent, excellent movie.

It should be noted that John Landis and Tim Burton provided puppet work during the final scene of this movie.

12:17 – The Muppets sign the standard Rich and Famous contract and are now big stars. Next up – a trip to London.

12:33 – The Great Muppet Caper

While certainly not as good as The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper is a very enjoyable, entertaining and funny movie. It sags a little in the middle and the overly long Miss Piggy dance routine grows old quickly. But the film does feature one of my favourite gags from the Muppet movie franchise – Kermit and Fozzie are twins and everyone thinks they’re identical. It’s such a simple joke but it’s one that works every time it’s used with even Fozzie forgetting which twin he is. Call me simple, but this was a gag that has me in stiches.

It should be noted that John Cleese has the funniest cameo in this movie.

14:05 – It’s not perfect and a bit rough around the edges, but it’s a great movie none the less. Up next, Frank Oz takes the director’s chair for a Muppet movie that is like no other…

14:10 – Muppets Take Manhattan

Muppets Take Manhattan sees our heroes graduate from high school with plans to take their musical Manhattan Melodies to New York in order to get it on Broadway. They struggle however which leads to the group splitting up to go their separate ways leaving Kermit to work in a diner still trying to get the musical made to reunite his friends. I really, really love this entry into the franchise. The jokes are funny, the story is very sweet and there are is some great characterisation. Call me soft, but Kermit and Miss Piggy’s wedding in front of the cast of The Muppets and Sesame Street is absolutely beautiful. It’s also unique within the Muppets cannon as it’s the only film that doesn’t break the fourth wall and reference the fact it’s a movie. It shouldn’t really be that big of a deal but when you’re watching a lot of these, it really stands out. This movie also gave us the introduction of Muppet Babies – a cartoon I remember very vividly as a child. While I really like this movie, I don’t think everyone else was overly impressed with it. But its sweet ending is quite emotional and one that I won’t soon forget.

It should be noted that The Muppets do a lot better taking of Manhattan than Jason did.

15:38 – Kermit and Miss Piggy finally tie the knot. But it’s not within cannon however as The Muppets were heading into adaptation territory – and first up, their most famous one to date.

15:42 – Muppets Christmas Carol

When people put together lists of movies they watch at Christmas, you can almost guarantee that 90% of them will contain this film – and for good reason. Muppets Christmas Carol just a brilliantly well put together movie that does a marvellous re-telling of Charles Dickens’ classic tale while still maintaining that unique Muppet charm. Michael Caine is outstanding as Scrooge and the supporting Muppet characters are used to perfection. Couple this together with great jokes, wonderful sight gags and a fantastic soundtrack and you have one of the best Muppet movies ever made. This movie is so good; it made my Desert Island collection!

It’s also worth noting that this is the first movie that The Muppets put out after the death of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt.

It’s also worth noting that this movie features Simon from The Inbetweeners‘ Mum.

17:01 – Scrooge has learnt the true meaning of Christmas and the reason we chose to do The Muppets as a marathon (it was nearly Christmas) is over. What next for the adaptation years…

17:18 – Muppet Treasure Island

A favourite among my fellow Movie Marathon co-founders, but one that I didn’t really get on with. Don’t get me wrong, Muppets Treasure Island a really decent film and a very funny one but for some reason I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous movies. The songs are great and the jokes work but there was something missing. However, something that did work for me in this is Tim Curry’s fantastic portrayal of Long John Silver – a role he is clearly having a lot of fun with! Muppet Treasure Island is by no means the worst movie in the franchise, but it’s also nowhere near the best.

It’s also worth noting that the little kid in this movie would grow up to make hilarious The Kevin Bishop Show.

It should also be noted that my old housemate auditioned for this film and got turned down. He still holds a grudge to this day.

18:50 – When planning this marathon, our fear was that this would be the last good movie until the final instalment. Where we correct in our assumptions?

19:15 – Muppets From Space

In a nutshell, yes. There was something not quite right about Muppets From Space that I couldn’t quite work out while watching the movie but as the film has played around my head for the last few weeks I think I’ve worked it out.

First off, it’s a Muppet Tonight movie rather than a Muppet Show movie which means that the jokes are less ‘fourth wall breaking’ and more ‘pop culture’ based. Secondly, one of the charming things about the Muppet movies are the songs – and this one doesn’t have any original ones. It just doesn’t make the film feel like a true Muppet movie and even the re-recorded version of “ I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” (originally from The Muppet Movie) was left on the cutting-room floor. And lastly, it sort of ruined the earlier jokes of calling Gonzo a ‘Whatever’ by giving him a species and a backstory – something his character didn’t need. The whole movie is a bit of a mess and no amount of Pepe or Bobo could make the film worth watching.

It’s also worth noting that this film features Hulk Hogan making references to WCW – a company that was already in bad financial states and would go bust a few years later. Actually, that’s not really anything of note.

It’s probably more worth noting that this would be the last film to feature Frank Oz who would retire from puppeteering.

20:44 – So Gonzo is an alien but has decided to stay with The Muppets. From here, The Muppets would take an extended hiatus from the cinema world, but would have a couple of TV movie adventure before making their return. We decided to watch just one of them.

20:57 – Muppets’ Wizard of Oz

There was debate among the co-founders whether this movie should be included as we’ve always stated that we wouldn’t include non-theatrical movies in marathons. But I owned the DVD so I fought to include it. I also own A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie but that was left off for reasons I now kind of regret – mainly because I would have rather watched that average movie than sit through this awful one.

For starters, the quality of the film in terms of both design and cinematography is really bad. I know it was made for TV, but it just looks so awful and cheap to the point where it’s hard to watch. On top of that, the performances are bad and Ashanti is somehow more wooden than Kermit The Frog as Scarecrow. The film is also paced badly which makes it a chore to sit through and the songs (while at least original) are nowhere near as catchy as previous instalments. Muppets’ Wizard of Oz was never going to be the highlight of the marathon, but I didn’t think it would be the lowest of the low points.

It should be noted that this film features a cameo from Quentin Tarantino. Yep.

22:24 – I have no idea how that film managed to be so long. Just one more movie to go, and it’s easily on the best.

22:35 – The Muppets

In the previous 5 meetings, we’ve only ever ended a marathon with a good movie on 2 of them (Planet of the Apes and Final Destination) so it was a really refreshing change of pace to end on a great one this time round (and proves that most horror remakes are garbage).

After a long hiatus away from cinema screens (while they stank up TV instead), The Muppets are back on form thanks to a wonderful script from star Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. The songs are insanely good, the story is perfectly crafted the jokes and beautifully self-aware. What still amazes me to this day that a lot of the Muppet performers (Steve Whitmire included) wanted to have their names taken off the credits as they didn’t think the script wasn’t up to the standards of The Muppets (fart shoes being a particular port of contention). Oh, but Muppets’ Wizard of Oz was your Citizen Kane was it? Please.

Regardless of whether the Muppet performers liked it or not, The Muppets is a simply fantastic movie that put these wonderful characters back into the public eye.

00:08 – A perfect way to cap off the most successful marathon to date. Only one really bad film and one average film in the bunch – a lot better than Halloween that’s for sure.

So the big question is, why is that only Muppets Christmas Carol gets the thumbs up from the general public? It’s considered a classic by many and yet Muppets Take Manhattan and The Muppet Movie are almost forgotten relics that no one gives attention to. Sadly, I actually have no answer. Perhaps with the resurgence in popularity these films will get the credit they deserve from a new generation of Muppet fans. When I was at the press conference for The Muppets, I spotted a kid no older than 5 wearing a Kermit The Frog t-shirt and with a huge smile on his face to meet his hero in person. Pretty good going for a piece of felt that first entertained audiences back in the 70s.

From Best To Worst:

1. The Muppets
2. Muppet’s Christmas Carol
3. The Muppet Movie
4. Muppets Take Manhattan
5. The Great Muppet Caper
6. Muppet Treasure Island
7. Muppets From Space
8. Muppets’ Wizard of Oz

Total runtime (including breaks): 13 hours, 20 minutes

We quite enjoyed the lighter tone of this marathon as a nice break from the dark tones of previous entries. For the next one however, we’re going to mix it up with a series that went from dark and serious to light and goofy before going back to serious.

Next Time: Godzilla (Showa series)

Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.

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