Abigail Maughan – Today I’d like to review a delightful little TV special from 1981 called The Muppets Go to the Movies, which was created to promote The Great Muppet Caper. The special consists almost entirely of the Muppets spoofing various classic films and film genres with guest stars Lily Tomlin and Dudley Moore. Yes, it is as wonderfully entertaining as it sounds.
What’s so much fun about it is that it feels like an extra episode of The Muppet Show. In addition to taking place in the Muppet Theater, the special has human guest stars, Statler and Waldorf heckling from their box, Jerry Nelson and his announcer voice, spotlights on major and minor characters, lots of songs, backstage antics, and a running gag that extends all the way to the end credits (keep an eye out under the “Writers” section).
Writers and Muppet performers both are on top of their game, and the human guest stars are wonderful as well. Both had worked with the Muppets previously (Tomlin on Saturday Night Live and Sesame Street, and Moore on The Muppet Show and again on The Jim Henson Hour years later). Once again, they adapt to the Muppet world effortlessly. In all of their respective scenes, Tomlin and Moore are just as goofy as their Muppet counterparts and make the special doubly enjoyable.
Muppet characters of all levels of fame are given plenty of attention that highlight their personalities perfectly:
- Miss Piggy leads a penguin chorus in “Heatwave”
- Scooter, Link, and Gonzo play the Three Musketeers
- Dr. Strangepork, Fozzie Bear, and Mulch (three names you’ll never see together anywhere else) star in horror movie parody
- The Muppets start off the special with a rousing reprise of a familiar Great Muppet Caper song
- Beauregard and Lew Zealand participate in a chariot race
- The cast performs a fun medley of Wizard of Oz songs
- Floyd and Janice have a number to themselves backstage
- Kermit stars with Lily Tomlin in a parody of war films.
There’s a bunch of other scenes that I won’t spoil for you. Rowlf, Statler and Waldorf, Rizzo the Rat, Sam Eagle, Beaker, the Swedish Chef, and even Foo-foo all get chances to shine in this special as well.
Because this is a promotional vehicle, the special shows a handful of clips from the upcoming The Great Muppet Caper. They don’t necessarily add anything to the show, but I imagine Muppet fanatics of the early ‘80s were beyond thrilled at the sneak peeks, just like you or I were towards any glimpses of Muppets Most Wanted in the past year. The endorsement is brief enough, and special’s overall delight factor makes it easy to overlook the obvious promotion.
There is no real plot to The Muppets Go to the Movies, but that’s not a bad thing. Far from it! How can anything that features Kermit and Miss Piggy reenacting Casablanca possibly be? If nothing else, this special is continually hilarious. What it lacks in plot, it more than makes up for in humor. I’d go so far as to say that, not counting the theatrical movies or the two main TV shows, it’s one of the most purely funny projects the Muppets have ever done, poking fun at all sorts of classic movies, but never being entirely disrespectful, in the way the Muppets do so well. If you’re looking for good old Muppet humor, fun song covers, and a lot of laughs, this is the show for you. And if Beaker playing the Angel of Death isn’t enough incentive to watch this, I don’t know what is. It’s all available to see on YouTube– here’s part 1!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org