By: KJ Hamilton
The Muppet Movie – 1979 – dir. James Frawley
The basic plot of the film is absolutely charming. Kermit the Frog leaves the swamp and heads west to Hollywood to try to “make millions of people happy.” He encounters a host of enchanting characters along the way, and discovers that it is possible to make your dreams come true if you work hard enough. Ok, I admit it: I love this film. I have loved it since I was a kid, and it’s one of only five films that I can watch repeatedly and never tire of them. So, I jumped at the chance to write about it. I’ve never before wondered just exactly what I love about this film until right now. There are so many things that make me smile and laugh about this film, but I managed to narrow it down to eight things. Let me tell you, this was not easy at all. Here we go…
The Rainbow Connection. “Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.” Ok, so we know that there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but isn’t it nice to imagine?
A frog and his Schwinn. Kermit only rides his bicycle for a few moments in the film, but it’s enough. Totally cool how Kermit’s legs suddenly grow long enough to reach the pedals.
A bear and a frog in a Studebaker. Where else can we see a bear driving a car with a frog in the passenger seat?
Kermie and Piggy. Honestly, this romantic relationship has always fascinated me. It’s not the mechanics of their romance that interests me. Rather, it’s the fact that love is both unconditional and blind. This is the lesson they taught me when I was a child, and I’ve never forgotten it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pig, a frog, a dog, or a gonzo: love conquers all. What the heck is Gonzo, anyway? He’s the only one that can understand when a chicken speaks, and he’s the Prince of Plumbers. His goals and dreams are a bit abstract (who goes to India to become a movie star, anyway?), and he is very literal (he actually hops when he’s hopping mad). But, he’s never defined. You’ve got a pig, a bear, a dog, a frog, a chicken, but Gonzo is simply Gonzo. I always thought that was cool because there are no boundaries to Gonzo, he can be whatever he wants to be. And, that is how I’ve always identified him.
Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. They’re wild and hip, into organics and I wish I could play the electric organ like Dr. Teeth. Their dream is to convert an old church into a rocking, “mellow and profitable,” coffee house. However, they come to the rescue when Fozzie’s used car breaks down in the middle of the desert. Besides, Animal is just awesome.
The celebrity cameos. I don’t recall another film that has more cameos than The Muppet Movie. Let’s see, you’ve got Dom DeLuise, James Coburn, Edgar Bergen, Charles Durning, Mel Brooks, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas, Elliot Gould, Steve Martin, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Paul Williams and Orson Welles. (I think there’s more than this, but you get the point.)
The Frog vs The Frog-Legs Man. Doc Hopper (Charles Durning) owns a chain of French-fried frog legs restaurants, and he’s horrible in his commercials. He finds Kermit—a frog that sings, dances and tells jokes. But, it’s a bit like feeding a cheeseburger to a cow for Kermit, and he just can’t help Doc out. Doc chases Kermit across the country, and tries everything—from offering money to an electronic cerebrectomy to hiring a frog-killer– to change the frog’s mind. Kermit tries to outrun the Doc, but in the end he decides to face Doc Hopper in a Old West-Style showdown in a ghost town. Doc is relentless and becomes the epitome of the dark side of ambition.
The bottom line of this movie is also the last line: “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending. We’ve done just what we set out to do. Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers and you.” If you believe and work hard enough, your dreams will come true. You won’t need a rainbow.