Muppet Retro Reviews: Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever!

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Michael Wermuth – Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! is one of two specials celebrating the 25th anniversary of Sesame Street (the other, better-known special, 25 wonderful Years: A Musical Celebration, was already reviewed here). As the title may imply, this one has a heavy amount of celebrity focus, in both the original linking material and the clips featured. Starring in this special are Joe Pesci as Ronald Grump, a tycoon who wants to tear down Sesame Street in favor of building a Grump Tower, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Kathy Lee Kathy, a reporter who covers the events of this special. Additional celebrity guests to appear in new footage include Barbra Walters (bookending the special), Kathy Lee Gifford (yes, she interacts with this special’s Kathy Lee), Regis Philbin, Charles Grodin, Susan Sarrandon, Rosie O’Donell, John Goodman, Corbin Berensen, Danny Devito, and Rhea Pearlman.

25-bennyandgrump-722204Of course, with the street in danger of being torn down, the residents of the street are all unhappy and try to convince Ronald Grump to reconsider. After showing a montage of the more sentimental moments from the show, Grump is not moved, being grumpy and caring more about money. Benny Rabbit is the only one to initially be supportive of Grump’s plans, hoping to be his doorman and become rich, but changes his mind after Grump tells him that he plans to have a robotic doorman. It’s a shame that more wasn’t done with this plotline (they could have had Benny help foil his plans, or Benny could have helped a bit and realized on his own that what he was doing was wrong).

25-protest-742755Ronald Grump’s plans to tear down the street end when it’s learned that, for some reason I haven’t really been able to comprehend, Oscar’s trash can is city property, which means that Oscar can’t be evicted, he has to choose on his own to move, and he refuses to do so – and building around Oscar won’t work, because he knows that nobody will want to buy an apartment with him living there. It ends with a new performance of “Sing”, combined with a new song, “Our Favorite Street”. It includes a montage of the celebrities who appear in the special singing (although Regis and Kathy Lee are missing, for some reason), and is a very good performance of “Sing”, and “Our Favorite Street” is a very catchy song as well.

9b0e9-askoscarThere’s a lot of great clip montages. The special begins with an opening sequence featuring animated still images of the characters. One montage is of funny moments, with such clips as the celebrity version of “Put Down the Duckie”, Jim Carrey showing happiness through his feet, Annett Benning joining Super Grover, and multiple performances of “C is for Cookie”. Oscar the Grouch gets his own montage, with a few clips I’m curious about (one in particular has Oscar in a giant trash can, singing a song similar to “I Love Trash”, I’d like to know the context of that one). There’s an alphabet montage, with the classic “Madrigal Alphabet” as an underscore, but for some reason, instead of showing clips for each letter of the alphabet, it shows clips in alphabetical order of characters saying words that begin with those letters (like Elmo saying “never mind” for N, and Mel Gibson saying “words” for W), with very few of the clips being from segments about letters (and for some reason, this montage is the only part of the special to feature clips from animated segments).

25-kathieleekathielemo-777558There’s also a music montage, featuring such mandatory songs as “Rubber Duckie” and “Monster in the Mirror”, along with fairly lesser-known stuff like “My Name” with Maya Angelou, “Charro Song” with Linda Ronstadt, and “Doing the Penguin”, a song that I haven’t been able to find any info on at Muppet Wiki. This montage occurs during the special’s most bizarre sequence, in which Slimey watches “Worm-TV”, which has Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman dressed in worm costumes. Another fairly odd celebrity moment comes when Rosie O’Donell appears as the spirit of Hope, a fairy in a pink bubble.

25-furryarms-717055 It seems like the editors must have been short on time selecting clips, as clips from many of the same episodes and segments show up during the special. It makes sense for it to happen in the montage of clips where characters solved problems, as it intercut scenes throughout the montage of characters having a problem and solving it, but there are quite a few scenes that have clips appear in multiple montages, and most of the “animated still images” in the opening sequence are taken from segments that have clips in this special.

But Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever is a good special. It’s not the best anniversary special, but it is one of my favorites, and it is a shame that this one hasn’t been released on home video.

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The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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