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Walt Disney Home Video presents
"Please let Kermit go. If you hold him too long, you know you'll just get warts."
DVD ReviewJim Henson's sheer genius has never been doubted, thanks almost entirely to his most beloved creations, the Muppets. Riding the success of TV's The Muppet Show, Henson brought Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the hilarious gang to the big screen in 1979's The Muppet Movie. Their first Hollywood excursion was a huge success, meaning that a sequel was inevitable. One showed up in 1981, and was called The Great Muppet Caper. Reuniting most of the Muppets from the first film and TV, it added some new faces, this time of the human variety.
The Great Muppet Caper is the best of the Muppets' films, thanks to a truly exciting heist-oriented storyline, and more hilarious antics from Henson's creatures. The movie has held up surprisingly well over the years, despite the somewhat dated human star power from the likes of Charles Grodin (did he recently drop off the face of the earth or what?) and The Avengers' Diana Rigg. A few other familiar faces pop up as well, including John Cleese, Peter Falk, and Peter Ustinov, but the cameos aren't as plentiful as they were in The Muppet Movie.
The film opens with Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo flying along in a hot-air balloon, talking about the opening credits. Then, one of the best musical numbers in Muppet history begins, Hey, a Movie! After crash-landing the balloon, the Muppets break out into song, making their way through the streets of London delivering a very catchy tune that's been in my head for over 20 years. We get a feel for what the movie entails as they cram as much vague information about the plot into a five-minute sequence. We even get a glimpse at Charles Grodin, who might only have one line in the song, but sets the tone for his character through the course of the movie.
There is some semblance of a plot involving a group of thieves scheming to steal a priceless diamond necklace, but memorable musical numbers are really what The Great Muppet Caper is all about. While Hey, a Movie! is a difficult segment to top, there are many that come close, including Kermit's arrival at the Happiness Hotel. Not only do all of the hotel's inhabitants (a list that's a virtual who's who of Muppets) partake in the singing, but it also features that one Muppet that I would watch do almost anything, Animal.
The human actors usually take a back seat to the Muppets in these films, but Grodin and Diana Rigg do an excellent job of keeping up. It has to be difficult to act alongside felt on sticks, but these two handle the task with grace and seem to be having a heck of a good time, too. Without Grodin, the dare-I-say romantic Piggy's Fantasy number wouldn't be believable at all, even if it does involve a human's affection for a Muppet. Rigg exhibits the same sexiness she brought to The Avengers, playing a dangerous femme fatale who winds up fighting a bunch of Muppets to get the one thing she desperately desires.
The film ends with somewhat of a reprise of the opening number, which takes us out with a bang, especially since it follows the Muppets' incredibly funny foiling of the big jewel heist. Just watching these Muppets fly around, attacking the thieves is hilarious, and everything is tied up in the nice, neat package that keeps Muppet fans coming back for more.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+
Image Transfer Review: Similar to the Sony disc, Disney's platter offers an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, as well as a pan & scan. Both of these seem to come from the same source material that the Sony disc used, with the main, and really only, difference being less compression, which has reduced the amount of artifacts. Image detail is nice but not a major revelation, while sharpness, contrast, and black levels are handled well, and the color scheme is nicely rendered, given the age of the film.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Also like the Sony disc, we get a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. This time around, though, we get a track that makes much better, and more liberal use of the entire sound field. There's even a decent bass presence during a few of the musical numbers, but none of the audio elements interfere with the crisp, distortion-free dialogue.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lady and the Tramp: 2-Disc Special Edition, The Wild, Shaggy Dog, The Muppet Show Season One: Special Edition, The Muppets Wizard of Oz, Radio Disney
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: Aside from Disney's standard Sneak Peeks, the only other extra is a featurette about Miss Piggy called Pepe Profiles Presents Miss Piggy: The Diva Who Would Not Be Denied. This five-minute segment talks about Piggy's life and career, but it's very disappointing that this is all we get for a so-called "Anniversary Edition" DVD.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsThe classic family film, The Great Muppet Caper is being revisited on DVD thanks to Walt Disney Home Video. This new Anniversary Edition release won't give those who own the older disc much reason to double-dip, as the audio and video aren't much of an improvement, and there is only one extra feature.
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