MuppetMoviecoverGrade:  A-
Entire family:  Yes
1979, 95 min., Color
Rated G
Aspect ratio:  1.85:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Bonus features:  C+
Includes:  Blu-ray, Digital Copy

I watched The Muppet Movie with my ‘tween daughter last night and we both were apprehensive. We had gone to Disney’s Hollywood Studios earlier in the summer and were totally unimpressed with “The Muppets 3D” attraction—a 3D movie that frankly wasn’t worth the long wait. The jokes were bad, the puppetry was only so-so, and the script was as ordinary as a called strike in baseball.

But it’s hard not to warm to a film that begins with Kermit the Frog strumming a banjo on a log in the swamp and singing “Rainbow Connection,” the Oscar-nominated song from Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher (who wrote the other seven songs in this film as well). And when Kermit decides to leave the bayou and we see his long, fuzzy green legs pedaling a bicycle down the road, we both laughed out loud. We were hooked. 

The Muppet Show was in its third year at the time, but Jim Henson and his puppeteers really challenged themselves by taking the Muppets on the road for this 1979 big-screen outing, where they’re exposed much of the time—including a full-bodied Miss Piggy posing at a beauty pageant and kicking it high karate style to save her beloved “Kermie” from the bad guys.

The TV show was hit or miss, depending on the guest stars and the writing, and happily both are strong for this film, which is directed by James Frawley (The Monkees). Dom DeLuise plays an agent, Mel Brooks a demented German-Jewish doctor, James Coburn a beleaguered roadhouse owner, Steve Martin a sarcastic waiter, and Orson Welles a Hollywood honcho.  Elliott Gould, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Cloris Leachman, and Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy also have cameos.

MuppetMoviescreenBut the biggest human part goes to Charles Durning, who plays Doc Hopper, a fast-food fried frog legs mogul who chases Kermit all over the country to try to get him to be his national spokesperson . . . or ELSE.

This origin story shows how Kermit picked up the Muppets a few at a time en route to Hollywood, and how the gang ended up somehow making it to Kermit’s audition despite the obstacles and the villains’ best attempts to stop them. All the road trip conventions are here, but the fun is in the puppetry, the puns, the sight gags, the interaction between Muppets and humans, and the exceptional music. As a result, it’s the kind of film that will appeal to the whole family.

Apart from new footage added to one bonus feature (“Jim Frawley’s Extended Camera Test”) and Disney Intermission, which randomizes “surprises” if you press pause, there are only a few bonus features ported over from previous DVD releases for this “Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition.”