The Great Muppet Caper

The Great Muppet Caper is a 1981 musical heist comedy directed by Jim Henson (in his feature directorial debut). It is the second theatrical film in The Muppets franchise. The film was produced by ITC Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company and distributed by Universal Pictures. In the plot, the Muppets are caught up in a jewel heist while investigating a robbery in London.

The Great Muppet Caper
The Great Muppet Caper poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byJim Henson
Written by
Based onThe Muppets
by Jim Henson
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyOswald Morris
Edited byRalph Kemplen
Music byJoe Raposo
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release date
  • 26 June 1981 (1981-06-26) (United States)
  • 30 July 1981 (1981-07-30) (United Kingdom)
Running time
97 minutes[2]
Countries
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$14 million[3][4]
Box office$31.2 million[5]

The film was released by Universal Pictures and Associated Film Distribution on 26 June 1981 in the United States and on 30 July 1981 in the United Kingdom. It is the only Muppets feature film directed by Henson. Shot in the United Kingdom and London in 1980, the film was released shortly after the final season of The Muppet Show.

PlotEdit

Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear are investigative reporters for the Daily Chronicle newspaper - they are supposedly identical twins, which becomes the source of a running gag: nobody can tell they are twins unless Fozzie is wearing his hat. Gonzo the Great is their loyal photographer, and together they make a team. One day, after the trio is dismissed for failing to report on a major jewel robbery, Kermit asks their editor Mr. Tarkanian to allow them to travel to London to investigate the robbery and interview the victim, the prominent fashion designer Lady Holiday. Statler and Waldorf make appearances throughout the film to heckle them and the audience.

With only $12 for the trip, they are forced to travel in an airplane baggage hold and are literally thrown out of the plane as it passes over Britain. They stay at the dilapidated (but free) Happiness Hotel, which is populated by other Muppet characters, including Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, Scooter, the Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Lew Zealand, Rowlf the Dog, Sam the Eagle, Pops, Beauregard, Crazy Harry, Camilla the Chicken, and Rizzo the Rat. The next morning, when Kermit seeks out Lady Holiday in her office, he finds her newly hired receptionist, the alluring Miss Piggy, and mistakes her for the fashion designer. Piggy instantly falls in love with the little green reporter. She poses as Lady Holiday, and Kermit asks her out for dinner; to keep up the pose, she allows Kermit to assume she lives at a "highbrow" address. She sneaks into a townhouse at 17 Highbrow Street to wait for him (much to the surprise of the actual upper-class British residents), and they go to dinner at a nightclub, the Dubonnet Club.

At the nightclub, the real Lady Holiday's necklace is stolen by her jealous brother Nicky and his accomplices Carla, Marla, and Darla, three of her exploited fashion models (the very same thieves who robbed her before). After the robbery, Miss Piggy's charade is revealed and she flees, leaving Kermit behind, though the next day, they reconcile after having a brief argument. Despite Nicky's instant attraction to Miss Piggy, he and his accomplices frame her for the necklace theft during Lady Holiday's fashion show. They plan to steal an even more valuable prize: Lady Holiday's largest and most valuable jewel, the Fabulous Baseball Diamond, now on display at the Mallory Gallery. Unbeknownst to them, Gonzo overhears their plot. He, Kermit, Fozzie, and the other residents of the Happiness Hotel decide to intercept the thieves and catch them red-handed to exonerate Miss Piggy. Kermit arrives at the prison to explain the plan to Miss Piggy, while disguised as her "lawyer".

The Muppets sneak into the Mallory Gallery and get to the Baseball Diamond at the same time as the thieves. They try to keep the diamond out of the thieves' hands via a game of keep away, but Nicky eventually catches the diamond and takes Kermit hostage. In the meantime, Piggy escapes from prison, and she races to the gallery, crashing through the window on a motorcycle that serendipitously fell off a truck in front of her. She knocks Nicky out and dispatches Carla, Marla and Darla with a flurry of furious karate chops. As the police arrive, all charges against Piggy are dropped, Nicky and his accomplices are arrested, and the Muppets get their deserved credit for foiling the heist.

The Muppets then return to the United States the same way they departed, being thrown out of the cargo hold and parachuting back to the United States.

CastEdit

Muppet performersEdit

Human actorsEdit

Peter Falk makes an uncredited cameo in the film.

ReleaseEdit

The Great Muppet Caper was theatrically released on 26 June 1981 in the United States and on 30 July 1981 in the United Kingdom. In celebration of the film's 40th anniversary, The Great Muppet Caper returned to theaters for two days on August 8 and 11, 2021.

Home mediaEdit

The film was first released on Betamax, VHS, and LaserDisc in 1982 by 20th Century-Fox Video. On 29 January 1993, Buena Vista Home Video, under the Jim Henson Video label, re-released the film on VHS and LaserDisc.[6]

It was reissued on VHS and released on DVD for the first time by Columbia Tristar Home Video and Jim Henson Home Entertainment on 1 June 1999. It was later released on DVD by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment and Jim Henson Home Entertainment on 10 July 2001 and subsequently on 29 November 2005 by Walt Disney Home Entertainment as Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The Great Muppet Caper on Blu-ray and DVD, alongside Muppet Treasure Island, on 10 December 2013.[7]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

After the success of The Muppet Movie and with good reviews, the film was expected to be a hit but grossed only half the amount of its predecessor with a US gross of $31,206,251. Some thought the use of the word "caper" in the title was a mistake.[8]

It is the fifth-highest grossing Muppet film behind The Muppets (2011), The Muppet Movie (1979), Muppets Most Wanted (2014) and Muppet Treasure Island (1996).

Critical responseEdit

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a two star rating (out of four), writing "...Henson and his associates haven't developed a screenplay that pays attention to the Muppet personalities. Instead, they ship them to England and dump them into a basic caper plot, treating them every bit as much like a formula as James Bond." He concluded his review by stating that "the lack of a cutting edge hurts this movie. It's too nice, too routine, too predictable, and too safe."[9] Similarly, Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times felt the "Muppets don't belong in a caper movie. They are interpreters of character, relationship and the human condition. (Of the first film's writers, Jerry Juhl and Jack Burns, only Juhl remains, now collaborating with Jack Rose; Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses are the other pair of writers credited. You can frequently scent trouble, or at least a lack of cohesion, as the list of writers mounts. ) Somebody let the air out of the jokes and the originality out of the melodies, which this time are by Joe Raposo."[10]

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded three out of four stars, particularly singling out Miss Piggy for her "fabulous personality, a genuine star quality". However, he felt the film suffers "from a case of the we-know-we're-cute-so-we-can-get-by-with-anything disease. The disease manifests itself in the script that forever interrupts itself with jokes about the movie we're watching...I expect the screenwriters to try to write a seamless story. Anybody can interrupt the action of a movie for gratuitous remarks such as these, but it's a very cheap laugh."[11] Todd McCarthy, reviewing for Variety, wrote that The Great Muppet Caper "possesses all the charm of the first installment", in which he applauded Henson for showing "a sure hand in guiding his appealing stars through their paces."[12] Vincent Canby of The New York Times compared the romantic chemistry between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy to that of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, in which he praised both characters as the "real stars" of the film.[13]

The film holds a 74% approval rating based on 23 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 6.5/10. The site's consensus says "The Great Muppet Caper is overplotted and uneven, but the appealing presence of Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang ensure that this heist flick is always breezily watchable."[14] On Metacritic, it has a score of 70 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15]

After the May 2021 death of co-star Charles Grodin, a number of writers called attention to his performance in the film. Wrote Robert Taylor in Collider, "It’s tough for a human actor to leave much of an impression in a Muppet movie. Their screen time is usually limited (often to just a cameo) and tends to consist of playing second banana to the Jim Henson-birthed lunacy. But in The Great Muppet Caper, Grodin employs his considerable comedy chops to more than hold his own, and he feels like a natural fit with the Muppet mayhem going on around him."[16] Matthew Dessem wrote in Slate that "Hollywood is going to continue making movies, they say, and birds will continue to sing, and spring will continue to be lovely, and jewel thieves will continue to fall head over heels for pigs who are working as receptionists at posh British houses of fashion while attempting to launch their modeling careers. But a light has been extinguished, a greatness has gone out of the world, and it’s fair to wonder if any other actor will ever embody pure, untamed desire for Miss Piggy the way Charles Grodin did. He was sensational."[17]

MusicEdit

In 1982, Joe Raposo was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "The First Time It Happens" but lost to "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" by Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross and Peter Allen from Arthur.[18]

In 1981, Miss Piggy won the Youth in Film Award for Best Young Musical Recording Artist for her performance of "The First Time It Happens", becoming the first, and only, non-human recipient in the history of the award.[19]

SoundtrackEdit

The Great Muppet Caper: The Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Released1981
GenreSoundtrack
LabelAtlantic
The Muppets chronology
The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack
(1979)
The Great Muppet Caper: The Original Soundtrack
(1981)
The Muppets Take Manhattan: Original Soundtrack
(1984)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [20]

The Great Muppet Caper: The Original Soundtrack contains all of the songs from the film, as well as several portions of dialogue and background score. The album reached #66 on Billboard's Top LP's and Tapes chart in 1981.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Joe Raposo.

No.TitleArtist(s)Length
1."The Main Title" (Instrumental) 2:48
2."Hey A Movie!"Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and The Great Gonzo2:44
3."The Big Red Bus" (Instrumental) 1:25
4."Happiness Hotel"The Muppets3:07
5."Lady Holiday" (Instrumental) 1:13
6."Steppin' Out With a Star"Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and The Great Gonzo2:32
7."The Apartment" (Instrumental) 0:54
8."Night Life"Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem2:58
9."The First Time It Happens"Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy4:13
10."Couldn't We Ride"The Muppets3:08
11."Piggy's Fantasy"Nicky Holiday and Kermit the Frog3:58
12."The Heist/The Muppet Fight Song/Muppets To The Rescue" (Instrumental) 3:47
13."Homeward Bound" (Instrumental) 0:52
14."Finale: Hey a Movie!"The Muppets1:30
15."Finale: The First Time It Happens"Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy1:37

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b The film's distribution rights were purchased by The Jim Henson Company from ITC Entertainment in August 1984.[1] The rights were then acquired by Walt Disney Studios upon their parent company's acquisition of the Muppets franchise in 2004. The film has since been subsequently reissued as a Walt Disney Pictures release.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Jay Jones, Brian (2013). "Chapter 12: Twists and Turns". Jim Henson: The Biography. Ballantine Books (Random House). pp. 374–375. ISBN 978-0345526113.
  2. ^ "THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 9 June 1981. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  3. ^ Jones, Brian Jay (2013). "The World in His Head". Jim Henson: The Biography. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-345-52611-3.
  4. ^ BRITISH PRODUCTION 1981 Moses, Antoinette. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 51, Iss. 4, (Fall 1982): 258.
  5. ^ "The Great Muppet Caper". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database.
  6. ^ "Henson Video line debuts Jan. 29 with eight titles". Variety. 10 November 1992. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  7. ^ "'Muppet Treasure Island & The Great Muppet Caper: Of Pirates & Pigs Collection' Blu-ray Dated". High-Def Digest. 9 August 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  8. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (9 September 1981). "HOLLYWOOD IS JOYOUS OVER ITS RECORD GROSSING SUMMER". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Great Muppet Caper". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 28 January 2012 – via RogerEbert.com.
  10. ^ Benson, Sheila (27 June 1981). "'Great Mupper Caper' Rescues Comedy". Los Angeles Times. Part II, p. 4. Retrieved 31 March 2021 – via Newspapers.com.  
  11. ^ Siskel, Gene (26 June 1981). "Miss Piggy real star of Muppet movie". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 3. Retrieved 31 March 2021 – via Newspapers.com.  
  12. ^ McCarthy, Todd (24 June 1981). "Film Reviews: The Great Muppet Caper". Variety.
  13. ^ Canby, Vincent (26 June 1981). "Screen: Miss Piggy Stars in 'Great Muppet Caper'". The New York Times. p. C8. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  14. ^ "The Great Muppet Caper (1981)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  15. ^ "The Great Muppet Caper". Metacritic. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  16. ^ Taylor, Robert (22 May 2021). "A Tribute to Charles Grodin's Brilliant Performance in 'The Great Muppet Caper'". Collider. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  17. ^ Dessem, Matthew (19 May 2021). "With Charles Grodin's Death, Hollywood's Greatest Romance Comes to an End". Slate. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  18. ^ "54th Academy Awards Winners". Oscars.org. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  19. ^ "3rd Annual Youth In Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  20. ^ AllMusic review

External linksEdit