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Muppets Movie Collection

Sony Pictures // G // January 31, 2006
List Price: $23.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted February 12, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The brainchild of Jim Henson and partner Frank Oz in the late 50's- part puppet, part marionette, Muppets have been around as long as this reviewer has been alive in one form or another. Beginning with late night talk shows and TV commercials, gaining fame on Sesame Street in the late sixties, attaining Disney-like popularity with the introduction of their own syndicated show, The Muppet Show in the seventies and almost inevitably their own series of movies has endeared green frogs, strong-minded women piggys, bad joke-telling silly bears and any number of odd, multicolored beastie concoctions to the viewing public for almost fifty years. Innovative, entertaining and lovable across the decades, these days their legacy is safely in the hands of Henson's son, Brian. The Muppets are the kind of pure genius that any creator would be proud to be remembered for. There is an appeal here to both adult and child alike, and if you're both, so much the better.

Everybody is here, folks- Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy, Animal, Gonzo, Rizzo, Waldorf and Statler (the little old heckling men from the balcony), Dr. Honeydew.......and a supporting muppet cast of thousands. You don't get their first movie, "The Muppet Movie", in this set, but you do get three others, and even a bad (can there truly be a bad?) Muppet movie has it's share of great bits.

The Muppets Take Manhattan

Kermit and the Muppet entourage go to New York to get their musical on Broadway only to find it's not going to be nearly as easy as they had imagined it being. While this plot has been the substance of untold movies over the decades, here we have it Muppetized. The third movie to their credit, this one sports a pretty nifty cast of supporting humans-Dabney Coleman, Joan Rivers, Gregory Hines, Linda Lavin, Art Carney, Elliott Gould, Liza Minnelli, and Brooke Shields all show up along the way. While this has never been one of my favorite entries in their canon, it's serviceable with a decent enough plot and hey, it gives the gang the opportunity to take their brand of entertainment to The Big Apple.

Kermit's Swamp Years

The premise of this one is Kermit- The Early Years, our green hero leaving home for stardom, and how he came to meet a young Jim Henson. This is presumably the most recent and in my opinion the least notable movie in this set, without the benefit of an array of cameos to spice up the story. With lots of muppets and lots of feel good along the way, it isn't a terrible movie, just one without the benefit of much of a plot-and the abscence of Miss Piggy and other notable Muppets can't be a plus for any Muppet vehicle.

Muppets From Space-

I'm a bit biased on this one because it's been a favorite of mine since it's theatrical release, and has since grown on me even moreso after coming to DVD shortly after it's bigscreen run. Centering on Gonzo, we are finally given an answer as to exactly what species Gonzo IS...an alien! Upset over the fact that he alone seems to be the only muppet who has no family to speak of, a lonely Gonzo begins to receive strange messages from out of nowhere letting him know that he is about to be visited by his people. What ensues is a fun frolic of a film in which Gonzo is kidnapped by a government agency- led here by Jeffrey Tambor- intent on capturing extra-terrestrials for fear of their being hostile. Gonzo's best pal Rizzo sets off with Kermit, Piggy, Animal and Fozzy to save the day. Is Gonzo off his rocker or is there really a whole race of Gonzos coming to earth to take one of their own back into the fold?

With some super cameos by Tambor, Ray Liotta, Andie MacDowell and David Arquette, this movie really stays busy throughout- it's a shame it didn't do well at the box office during it's theatrical run. Of particular delight here is the opening sequence with a dorm-like household packed with the entire Muppets crew going about the business of starting their individual day, all to the orchestration of The Commodore's tune "Brick House"......great stuff, this. Also keep your eyes open for the catfight between MacDowell and Piggy!



Video-

Of note here is the fact that both Kermit's Swamp Years and The Muppets Take Manhattan are presented in both 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen, whereas Muppets From Space is presented in fullscreen only, which is a big disappointment for me as it's my favorite of the bunch. Oddly enough I checked my copy of the original single release- it's a flipper and gives the viewer the option of either widescreen or fullscreen, so the ball has definitely been dropped here. All three movies are clean, fairly sharp and quite acceptable.

Audio-

Kermit's Swamp Years

Audio options here are mono English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

The Muppets Take Manhattan

Again, audio options here are mono only, in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Muppets From Space-

Audio here is presented in both English Dolby 2.0 as well as Dolby Digital 5.1. Both tracks are clear and entertaining.

Bonus Features-

All three movies here include their trailers. While there appears to be a wealth of extras throughout the set, that is a bit misleading as only the commentaries are of any length worth more than a casual checking out.

Kermit's Swamp Years-

Blooper Reel-
Kermit in his weaker moments flubbing lines during the making of the movie.
Commentary with Kermit and Horace-
An enjoyable commentary with our two stars, but a bit on the sparse side.
Behind the scenes featurette-
Interviews with the cast, writers and crew.
On the set with Kermit-
A fun little piece with Kermit discussing his early years and his rise to Muppet fame and fortune.

The Muppets Take Manhattan-

Muppetisms-
Three short skits with Fozzie telling bad jokes, Piggy in starlet mode, and Pepe the shrimp trying to play basketball. All three total about a minute in length.
Interview With Jim Henson-
A relaxed sitting with Henson talking about how enjoyable the making of this movie was for him by allowing others to come in and share more of the workload, his persona in relation to the characters, acting in Muppet mode, Muppet magic and illusion, and the work related in bringing Kermit to life. All of this is presented in short segments that add up to only a few minutes in all.

Muppets From Space-

Commentary with Kermit, Gonzo, Rizzo and Director Tim Hill-
The boys sit and play off of each other ala' "Mystery Science Theater 3000", complete with an overlay of the characters 'watching' the movie. Obviously intentional and alot of fun to watch- almost a movie within a movie.
Outtakes Reel-
Several deleted scenes from the movie, again all short in length, equaling up to a minute or two. Mostly blooper-related.
"Shining Star" Music video-
Promotional video of the song from the movie.

Final Thoughts-

This is something of a hodgepodge collection, giving us some fairly decent Muppet films but leaving out what many would probably say is the best of the series thus far, their first film. My assumption is that the reason for this is in order to sell this 3-pack at a very attractive pricepoint, and possibly to test the waters for the release of a companion set down the road or maybe a more comprehensive package. The three movies are packaged in a bold, colorful box that seems geared towards the children's market, which is understandable- but considering the appeal of Muppets to people of all ages it would have been wise to keep the widescreen option for Muppets From Space. In any case, as it stands on it's own it's a good little set for Muppet fans, especially for the money. Recommended.
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