The Great Muppet Caper
Watching Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppet gang work together to nab jewel thieves in London, it's impossible not to mourn Jim Henson anew. Henson, like author Roald Dahl and Looney Tunes maestro Mel Blanc, had that all-too-rare ability to create off-beat stories and characters that appeal equally to children and adults, entertaining the former without boring or talking down to the latter. The Great Muppet Caper (1981) is no exception to the Henson rule. Although not quite as fresh and original as its predecessor, The Muppet Movie (1979), Caper boasts plenty of laughs and action, as well as the self-referential asides and cameo appearances that fans love. Kermit (voiced by Henson) and Fozzie (Frank Oz), playing identical twin (!) cub reporters, head to London with photographer Gonzo (Dave Goelz) to get to the bottom of a daring jewel heist. Once he's across the pond, a case of mistaken identity leads Kermit to assume that aspiring model Miss Piggy (Oz again) is actually theft victim Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg), a wealthy, imperious fashion designer. He proceeds to wine and dine the porcine beauty, looking for a big scoop, but he ends up having to help prove her innocence when Lady Holiday's ne'er-do-well brother, Nicky (Charles Grodin, at his smarmiest), in a jealous huff, frames Miss Piggy for stealing. The plot moves along tidily, but the chief delight of The Great Muppet Caper (as with most Muppet productions) is its sly humor and crazy characters. Forced by empty wallets to stay at the rundown Happiness Hotel, Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo meet the usual motley crew, from crazy cab driver Beauregard to band members Floyd, Zoot, Janice, and, of course, Animal. Their new friends become invaluable during the film's best sequence, when frog and bear hatch a scheme to catch the real jewel thieves red-handed ("What color are their hands now?" is the proper response there, and a running gag in the movie). In addition to Rigg and Grodin's co-starring turns, watch for cameos from the likes of John Cleese, Jack Warden, Peter Ustinov, and Robert Morley; Cleese's role as a veddy proper British gentleman is particularly amusing. Disney's "Anniversary Edition" DVD release of The Great Muppet Caper (part of a series of releases celebrating Kermit's 50th birthday) offers the film in both anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and full-screen versions (sorry, no re-mastering here; the film is grainy in spots, and some colors occasionally look washed out) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English and French tracks) and English closed-captioning. The disc's only extra, aside from a handful of "sneak peeks" for other Disney titles, is "Miss Piggy: The Diva Who Would Not Be Denied," a brief, rather uninspiring profile hosted by Pepe the Prawn. Keep-case.