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All Time Favorites : THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER (Rated G, 1981)

July 29, 2008

THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER was the follow up to the highly successful MUPPET MOVIE .  Instead of being a “biographical” movie about the Muppets, this was a comedy crime caper bar none.  The story opens with Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo leading a rousing musical number about the fact that they’re going to be a movie starring “everybody and me”.  While this is going on, a rich Englishwoman (Diana Rigg) has her jewelry ripped out of her hands by a group of masked robbers.  But Kermit and Fozzie thought that the fact that they just joined their local newspaper as reporters would be a better cover story than the robbery of Lady Holliday (Rigg).  Their editor (Jack Warden) is not surprisingly displeased, and threatens to fire the two, and Gonzo, but reconsiders when the three volunteer to go to London to interview Holliday, and catch the thieves.

Landing in England (actaully thrown out of the plane OVER England), Our furry heroes decide to take up residence in London’s cheapest hotel (it’s actually free):  The Happiness Hotel.  The mere fact that someone wants to check in is cause for celebration at the Hotel, and we’re treated to what is in my opinion, one of the funniest songs genius composer Joe Raposo ever wrote (see my MOVIE MUSIC column for a sample of the lyrics).

Next morning, we find ourselves at Lady Holliday’s London headquarters.  She’s not happy with the clothes from her latest lines, saying that all her dresses make the models look like barnyard animals.  Cue Miss Piggy.  She wants to join the firm as a model, but is ecstatic just to be a receptionist.  This leads to a case of mistaken identity when Kermit walks in on Piggy pretending to be accepting the award for Model of the Year.  Kermit thinks Piggy’s Lady Holliday, and Piggy does nothing to discourage the illusion.  In fact, she ENcourages it by setting up a dinner date in which Kermit has to pick her up at her place.

That evening, as Kermit prepares for his date, he has to tell Fozzie that Fozzie can’t go.  To cheer up Fozzie, Kermit finishes dressing for his date paying tribute to Fred Astaire, in another great Raposo tune.  Piggy meanwhile has to do a little breaking and entering to help her deception be complete.  Luckily she picked the address of the most boring couple in London:  Neville and Dorcas (Neville played by John Cleese).  They’re so dull they don’t even care that a pig has just broken into their home and is answering their door, because neither Neville nor Dorcas can decide who should answer.

It turns out that the whole Muppet gang is going to dinner with Kermit and Piggy after all.  At the club, Gonzo decides to put his photography skills to good use to help pay for dinner (watch for a Jim Henson cameo in this scene).  Meanwhile, Kermit and Piggy are on the dance floor, but Piggy doesn’t want to discuss the robbery.  Also in the restaurant (actually it’s more of a supper club), are Lady Holliday, her brother Nicky (Charles Grodin), an irresponsible parasite of a brother, and Holliday’s top three models Marla, Carla, and Darla.  Holliday is worried about the safety of her jewels, but Nicky convinces Holliday to relax.  Meanwhile, on the dance floor, a huge production number takes place.  This is “The First Time it Happens” and it earned Joe Raposo an Academy Award nomination.  It’s a number that outshines HELLO DOLLY’s “Waiter’s Gallop”, thanks to Joe’s music and Anita Mann’s choreography.

Unfortunately, the magic is short-lived.  As the number finishes, the lights go out, and Holliday is robbed AGAIN!  Kermit realizes that Miss Piggy is NOT the real Lady Holliday, and is understandably upset.  The good news is that Gonzo managed to get a picture of the thieves.  The bad news is the picture gets over-exposed at the Hotel, but that’s OK, as they now know who’s been targeting Lady Holliday.  Kermit confronts Piggy in a classic character breaking argument.  Of course they make up.  But trouble has just begun.

Piggy manages to keep her job with Lady Holliday, and manages to get work helping out backstage at Holliday’s latest fashion show.  The thieves are also backstage, and decide to plant the goods on Miss Piggy.  Piggy is summarily arrested, and now it’s up to the gang to clear Miss Piggy, catch the jewel thieves, and save Lady Holliday’s most precious jewel The Fabulous Baseball Diamond.  You’ll have to see the climactic rescue for yourself.

This movie works very well because the jokes are fast and funny, and even surreal.  My favorite running gag involves the fictionalized family relationship between Kermit and Fozzie.  It just keeps the pacing fresh.  You also have a fantastic multi-faceted score by my favorite Fall River resident.  Joe Raposo is thoroughly in his element writing a musical score that is by turns exciting, hilarious, gentle, and hopelessly romantic (in a good way), with a mix of styles that service the scenes very well.  I personally enjoy the driving beat of “Night Life”, which features into the climactic scene very well.  I recently showed MUPPET MOVIE to my young nieces, and they loved that movie.  I can’t wait to show them this one.

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