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Robin: Uncle Kermit, is this how the Muppets really got started?
Kermit: Well, it's sort of approximately how it happened.
In the summer of 1979, Jim Henson brought his beloved characters from The Muppet Show to the big screen to tell their story. After a very meta Cold Opening where we see the Muppets attending a private screening of their own film, we see how Kermit was inspired to leave his home in the swamp and head to Hollywood.
Along the way, he picks up a familiar assortment of friends: Fozzie Bear, a struggling ursine comedian; The Great Gonzo, "prince of plumbing" turned would-be actor; Miss Piggy, self-proclaimed "actress/model"; Rowlf the piano-playing dog; the eccentric inventors Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker; and the psychedelic Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and their road manager Scooter. Unfortunately, Kermit also attracts the attention of Doc Hopper, an unscrupulous restaurateur who's dead set on getting Kermit as a spokes-frog for his fried frog-legs stands. Throw in some catchy musical numbers by Paul Williams and an assortment of celebrity cameos, and you've got the makings of a much-loved movie.
To date, The Muppet Movie remains the most profitable and highest grossing (accounting for inflation) live-action children's film in history.
Not to be confused with the 2011 movie The Muppets (though that one's technically a sequel of sorts).
This film features examples of:
- All-Star Cast: Between the Muppets themselves and all the cameos...
- Including, behind the scenes, Tim Burton and John Landis, who were amongst the numerous people called in to operate the Muppets for the final number.
- Aside Comment: A few.
Kermit: (to camera) Good grief, it's a Running Gag.
- Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption
- Attack of the Fifty Foot Animal: After he eats Bunsen's growth pills.
- Author Avatar: Kermit's journey from Mississippi to show biz is an allegory for Henson's career. Doesn't hurt Henson voices Kermit, too.
- Bad Guy Bar: "El Sleezo Cafe"
- Balloonacy: Happens to Gonzo at one point.
- Berserk Button: Prof. Krassman learns the hard way that you never threaten Kermit in front of Miss Piggy:
Prof. Krassman: Say goodbye to the frog, pig!
Miss Piggy: Why should I?
Prof. Krassman: Because in sixty seconds, he won't know you from kosher bacon!
Miss Piggy: THAT DOES IT! HIIIIIII-YAAAAAAAAH!
- Possibly also pressing Piggy's other Berserk Button--pig/pork jokes.
- Between My Legs: Seen during the showdown.
- Bootstrapped Theme: "The Rainbow Connection" has become the unofficially official theme for the Muppets in general.
- Brick Joke: Sweetums finally catches up to Kermit and the gang at the end...by bursting through the screen of the theater.
- The Cameo: Dozens of them, mostly human, though at one point Kermit and Fozzie run into Big Bird, who tells them, "I'm on my way to New York City, to try and break into public television."
- All right, let's see... Steve Martin is serving wine, Elliot Gould is a beauty contest emcee, Richard Pryor is selling balloons, Milton Berle is a used car salesman, Carol Kane keeps showing up when someone says "Myth", Mel Brooks is a mad scientist, Dom Deluise is chased by an alligator, Madeline Kahn is a patron at The El Sleezo Cafe with Telly Savalas as her boyfriend (and where James Coburn is the owner)' and Orson Welles gives The Muppets the standard 'Rich & Famous' contract. Tada!
- You forgot Bob Hope selling ice cream cones.
- Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy as themselves.
- James Coburn as the owner of El Sleezo. Must be a tough joint if they could pitch him out.
- Call Back: The scene where Kermit over-enunciates "Al-li-gat-ors" to Dom Deluise is a callback to a scene in The Muppet Show, said by Piggy.
- Captivity Harmonica: Rowlf in the campfire scene.
- Chekhov's Gun: Who knew The Electric Mayhem would have kept that copy of the screenplay?
- Coincidental Accidental Disguise: Fozzie's newly painted car in front of the billboard.
- Cool Car: Fozzie's 1951 Studebaker, which is now in the Studebaker National Museum collection.
- Also the 1946 Ford "woodie" station wagon that they buy from Mad Man Mooney.
- For that matter, the Electric Mayhem's tour bus.
- Contrived Coincidence: The gang stumbles upon Miss Piggy hitchhiking in the desert.
Miss Piggy: What an unbelieveable coincidence!
- Creator Cameo: James Frawley, the director, is the El Sleezo waiter.
- Paul Williams, who wrote "The Rainbow Connection" and all the other songs, is El Sleezo's piano player.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Miss Piggy, though she's really a moron only around Kermit.
- Deus Ex Machina: Animal + Super Growth Pills = Impasse Resolved.
- Directionless Driver: Fozzie's route from Louisiana to California goes through Rhode Island and Saskatchewan.
- Dumb and Drummer: Animal is portrayed this way.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Sweetums is only known in the movie as "Jack."
"Jack not name. Jack job!"
- For those that don't get it, his job is moving cars around at Mad Man Mooney's... which he does by lifting them up by the bumper.
- Expy: Lew Lord (Orson Welles) is Lew Grade, who gave Henson his big break, and shepherded his career (and actually was a Lord).
- Fat Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit: Doc Hopper, since he's sort of an evil Captain Ersatz of Colonel Sanders.
- Foreshadowing: Gonzo mentioned that he wants to move to Bombay to become a movie star. He'd later follow up on this in season four of The Muppet Show.
- While the other Muppets try to explain to Gonzo that one goes to Hollywood to become a movie star, Bombay (now Mumbai) was then and is now the center of the massive Bollywood industry, meaning that Gonzo may not have been entire random.
- Framing Device: The Muppets attending the premiere of the movie, making the main movie a Show Within a Show. The film even breaks at one point.
- "Huernder hinder flip-flip-flip-flip-flip!"
- Fortunately, der flim is okey-dokey.
- Girlish Pigtails: Miss Piggy wears some for part of the movie. Get it?
- Ghost Town: Where they find Bunsen and Beaker.
- Heel Face Turn: Max, Doc Hopper's nerdy right hand man. When Hopper hires the deadly professional frog killer to take Kermit down, Max realizes just what kind of guy he's been working for, and dresses as a cop in order to pull over the Muppet bus and warn them.
- Herr Doctor: Prof. Krassman. Definitely of the Mad Scientist variety.
- Hilarious Outtakes: While technically not outtakes as such (as they were never intended to be part of the finished film), the footage shot by director James Frawley to test the cameras while setting up at exterior locations includes some wonderful ad-lib work by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Watch it here and here.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Krassman gets stuck in the mind-melting machine and starts blurting, "Ribbit! Ribbit! Ribbit!"
- Honest John's Dealership: Mad Man Mooney
- "I Want" Song: "The Rainbow Connection," also something of an Ear Worm.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: A hurricane of them - and winkingly at the audience too.
Kermit: (on the oft-used Hare Krishna gag) Good grief, it's a Running Gag.
- It's All My Fault: Kermit when his group is stranded in the desert.
- Late to the Party: Sweetums.
- Let's Meet the Meat: Doc Hopper's proposal for Kermit to advertise for "Hopper's French-Fried Frog Legs".
- Literal Metaphor
"I hear this movie is dynamite."
- Fork in the road, start with a bang, drinks on the house--it's a Running Gag.
- Love At First Sight: When Miss Piggy meets Kermit (and even follows it up with a romantic montage!)
- The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: Kermit's inner self literally appears to help him with a moral crisis.
- The Messiah: Kermit. He not only wants to make people happy (a goal shared by his friends), but he also had this to say to Doc Hopper:
Kermit: I don't think you're a bad man, Doc. But I think if you look in your heart, you'll find you really want to let me and my friends go... to follow our dream. But, if that's not the kind of man you are, and what I'm saying doesn't make any sense to you... well, then, go ahead and kill me.
- Minion with an F In Evil: Max.
- Mythology Gag: One for Mel Brooks: he has his profession written on the back of his suit, which he's done in many of his films before (Blazing Saddles) and since.
- No Fourth Wall
- Perhaps the best example is Kermit and Fozzie explaining their story to the Electric Mayhem by giving them a copy of the movie script. The band later saves Kermit and company from the desert, explaining finding them by Dr. Teeth saying, "It was in the script you left us!"
- Not Actually the Ultimate Question: "Have you tried Hare Krishna?"
- Not Hyperbole: "When a German scientist tells you to hold onto your hat, it's not casual conversation. Hold on to your hat! Hat! Hold!"
- Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: In an Imagine Spot, Miss Piggy pictures herself doing this with Kermit.
- Origins Episode
- Overly Narrow Superlative: "One of the finest wines of Idaho."
- Parental Bonus: Some of the jokes are way obscure, though the outside is usually funny enough.
Gonzo: I always wanted to go to Bombay, India, and become a movie star.
Fozzie: You don't go to Bombay to become a movie star. You go where we're going, Hollywood!
Gonzo: Sure, if you want to do it the easy way.
- For that matter, most of the pop culture references are too far out of date for kids today to get them.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: "It is indeed a problem for us to probosculate upon!"
- The Piano Player: Paul Williams, his own self.
- Reality Subtext: Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy made their last appearance in the film - Henson was inspired to make the Muppets because of him. Bergen died not long after his scene was shot, and the film is dedicated to him.
- Retcon: Scooter and the band had different and unconnected origin stories in the first seasons of the series, but are now shown as being a single unit before the show got together. (Handwaved by Kermit to Robin in the opening. "Well, it's sort of approximately how it happened.")
- Road Movie
- Running Gag: "Have you tried Hare Krishna?" Also, the "Myth! Myth!" thing.
Gonzo: I'm back!
Miss Piggy: I don't understand any of this.
- At the end, Sweetums literally bursts through the movie screen and joyfully shouts, "I just KNEW I'd find you guys!"
- Scenic Route: What we see as Fozzie sings "America the Beautiful".
Kermit: This is the patriotic part.
Robin: Should we stand up?
- Setting-Off Song: "Movin' Right Along." The first few bars get replayed when they drive off anywhere. Just to drill it into your head further.
Kermit: Move it right along Fozzie.
- Servile Snarker: Steve Martin, in yet another cameo, as an extremely rude waiter.
- Kermit to Piggy: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a hoot." Doubles as a reference to Woodsey Owl.
- Talking to Himself: One of the benefits of this and the other feature films was the opportunity it afforded for characters like Jim Henson's Kermit and Rowlf, Frank Oz's Piggy and Fozzie, etc., to interact in a way that wasn't always technically feasible on television.
- Talking to Themself: Kermit literally talks with another version of himself in the desert scene.
- There Is Another: In this case, many others. For the finale, two hundred and fifty Muppets, all preexisting, appear. As mentioned above, a whole bunch of extra people (including Tim Burton and John Landis) had to be called in to operate all of them.
- This Billboard Needs Some Salt: Aunt Amy's Custard Pies.
- Triumphant Reprise: "The lovers, the dreamers, and you."
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Within the film itself; see the page quote.
- Visual Pun: Kermit tells Fozzie to turn left at the fork in the road. Sure enough... a giant fork is stuck in the road like a landmark.
Kermit: I don't believe that.
- Wallpaper Camouflage: With a car!
- What Could Have Been: Visit here for an analysis on a draft script, but the biggest one to note is the recurring appearance of Henry Kissinger, whose entire schtick is that he's not cast in the movie, not even for the Framing Device. Hilarious in Hindsight again?
- You Are Worth Hell: Subverted, by Kermit to Miss Piggy when they are being held captive by Doc Hopper's minions and the mad scientist who is preparing to give him what amounts to a new form of lobotomy.
Miss Piggy: Whatever happens next, I wouldn't trade this night for anything. Would you?
Kermit: Make me an offer.