First of all, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the film: The Muppet Movie is about a Southern gentleman whose dream of owning a chain of restaurants bearing his name is thwarted by a frog who is more interested in inviting a series of strangers to go on a road trip with him.
What follows here is my extremely detailed review of this Blu-ray disc, starting with all the technical details. Now, I’m sure everyone will be delighted to know that the compression format is AVC MPEG-4. The disc has an average bitrate of 36 Mbps, and fans of Camilla’s clucking will appreciate the lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound, which is–
Just kidding! Nobody cares about that stuff. What you really want to know is, “Should I buy this Blu-ray if I already own the movie in some other format?”
Here are the formats in which I’ve owned this film:
–A well-worn VHS tape I had as a little kid. My parents must have obtained this for me somehow, but it wasn’t a commercial copy, nor was it taped from a TV broadcast. Now that I think about it, there might have been a time in the early days of VCRs when my parents didn’t quite understand the FBI Warning. Like, they might not have been clear on the fact that “Don’t copy this tape,” actually meant “Don’t copy this tape,” as opposed to, “Don’t copy this tape, unless you really want to, then it’s cool.”
–A commercial VHS released on the Jim Henson Home Video label in 1993. I had to spend my hard-earned allowance on that one, because it came with a FREE WATCH! This unbelievably generous giveaway was touted by a TV commercial in which Fozzie sang a new song to the tune of The Muppet Show theme song. (“And you can get a free watch!” took the place of “And now let’s get things started!” I check YouTube for this commercial every few months, but so far it’s never shown up.)
–The 2001 DVD release, which had a special feature: The James Frawley camera tests, which we were all seeing for the first time. If ever there was a compelling reason to buy a movie all over again, it was candid footage of Kermit and Fozzie talking to cows.
Why do I keep buying it? Well, with every release, the sound and picture quality improve noticeably, which heightens the experience of watching the movie. From VHS to better VHS to DVD to Blu-ray… With each step, we get a little bit closer to actually being there with Kermit and Fozzie and the gang. Or perhaps, with Jim and Frank and the gang. As Muppet fans, that’s what we crave on a constant basis: To be closer to all those awesome guys and the Golden Age of Muppets. And this new release gets us as close to the Golden Age of Muppets as we’ve ever gotten in our own living rooms.
Now that I’ve gurgled some nonsense for a few hundred words, what about an actual review of what you get when you buy it? Well, my review is: This is a good Blu-ray. We love scrutinizing everything Disney does with the Muppets for things to complain about, but there’s not much to shake our fists at here. Even the menu made me go “Oooooh!”
The movie looks really good in 1080p high definition. I’ve seen a few mild criticisms in reviews by people with keener eyes than mine, but to me it all looks great. Sure, there’s some graininess visible in this 34-year-old film, but the picture is so vivid you can practically count the hairs in Orson Welles’s beard.
Oh, and did you know that Kermit the Frog is green? On my old VHS and DVD copies, he was sort of a medium olive hue, but on the Blu-ray his green is as vibrant as his fellow Disney-owned characters the Hulk and Mike Wazowski. You can even see his fleece sparkle in the light. As for Miss Piggy, her eyes have never been so twinkly.
It sounds good, too. I don’t have any kind of fancy surround sound system, but I was hearing things I never really heard before, like the string section on “Movin’ Right Along.” And Bunsen’s musical rotating rain barrel sounds superb.
The extras are… okay. I wish they had let Dave Goelz or Steve Whitmire or Frank Oz or Austin Pendleton do a commentary. Some combination of those guys should just get together someday and make their own commentary, and then sell it online. But until then, we have Frog-e-oke, which is a fun little thing where the songs from the movie play with the lyrics animated on the screen.
There’s also “Pepe Profiles Presents,” which is a leftover from the previous DVD release that doesn’t really have that much to do with the movie, but it’s entertaining enough. It should definitely be a nice consolation prize if you happen to be this IMDb user who thinks they should digitally insert Pepe into The Muppet Movie.
The James Frawley camera tests are also back, and this time there’s a lot more of them. I’m not sure why the whole thing wasn’t included on the earlier DVD releases, but I’m actually glad it wasn’t, because it makes it feel genuinely special to see it all here. And hey, it’s Steve Whitmire as Sweetums!
One sweet bonus feature we haven’t seen before is the full version of Doc Hopper’s French Fried Frog Legs commercial. In the film we only get glimpses of it on a TV monitor, but the unedited clip manages a few solid laughs in its brief running time. Just look for the sign of the bright green legs!
There’s also an Easter egg on the disc that would probably be boring to most people, but it’s the kind of stuff Muppet fans live for. You should hunt for it yourself, but if you’re feeling lazy, just read this post from the Tough Pigs forum (and highlight for spoiler text).
But there must have been more stuff they could have included. What about the alternate version of the end credits, where you can hear what all the Muppets are saying? We know it exists, because we’ve seen it. There’s no reason not to include it on the Blu-ray. Maybe they’re saving it for the super-high-definition Bluer-than-blu-ray release in a few years.
I could say more words to try to convince you to buy this thing, but I don’t have to, because our friends at Muppet Wiki have put together this stunning video that compares various scenes from the old DVD version to the way they look on the Blu-ray (Note: If you can’t see the video embedded below, click here):
Wow. Excuse me, I’m going to go watch my Blu-ray again.
Click here to count Orson Welles’s beard hairs on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com