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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Muppet Movie is a likeable road trip romp with singable songs -- as well as some guns and slapstick violence. Throughout the movie, Kermit (voiced/puppeteered by Jim Henson) is pursued by men with guns, and a couple shots are fired. Miss Piggy (Frank Oz) and Kermit are captured, Kermit almost gets his "brains scrambled" in a crazy electrical machine, and there's a final stand-off with guns drawn. There's also quite a bit of discussion about preparing/eating frogs' legs, much to Kermit's dismay. But the Muppets always get away from the bad guys in a fun way (often thanks to Miss Piggy's karate chops). There's some flirting and drinking -- Miss Piggy and Kermit drink wine with straws -- and minor characters smoke cigars. Themes include integrity, perseverance, and teamwork, and there are clear messages about following your dreams, getting by with a little help from your friends, and facing bullies.
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What's the story?
In a classic opening, THE MUPPET MOVIE begins with Kermit the Frog (voiced/puppeteered by Jim Henson) in the swamp singing "The Rainbow Connection" wistfully to himself. He's overheard by a passing showbiz agent (Dom DeLuise), who compliments the amphibian on his talents. Fired up by the thought of performing in Hollywood, Kermit hits the road on a bicycle, heading westward and, along the way, gathering a menagerie of equally ambitious Muppet animals. There's the painfully unfunny standup comic Fozzie Bear (Frank Oz), the unclassifiable Great Gonzo (Dave Goelz), the rock band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, and the feisty, narcissistic diva Miss Piggy (Oz again), who immediately becomes infatuated with Kermit. But upon seeing the charismatic frog, Doc Hopper (Charles Durning) decides that he'd be the perfect spokes-frog for Hopper's chain of frog-leg restaurants. Kermit isn't interested, but Hopper is fixated, leading to a cross-country pursuit. This sidetracks the Muppets, but eventually they arrive in Hollywood and get signed to the standard "rich and famous" contract.
Is it any good?
Henson's delightful debut Muppet film was a technological breakthrough in 1979 because it was the first time that his beloved Muppet Show characters were shown in full, from head to toe. In one of the movie's most impressive scenes, Kermit pedals a bicycle. But the lasting beauty of The Muppet Movie is that the relatively low-tech magic, innocence, and sweetness of Henson's characters hold up. It's wondrous how alive and likeable a piece of felt like Kermit can be with just a smirk or tilt of his fabric head.
Adults and kids will have no trouble accepting the Muppets' interactions with humans or each other, even if the Kermit-crazed villain seems like a weak afterthought. If anything's gone stale, it's some of the jokes and puns, seemingly pitched at the younger age range of the Muppets' global fandom. Still, adults will have more than one occasion to smile, especially at the parade of celebrity appearances, including Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Orson Welles, and Mel Brooks.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the lasting appeal of The Muppet Movie. This film was made in 1979. Why do you think it endures? What gives it all-ages appeal?
- In theaters: May 31, 1979
- On DVD or streaming: June 5, 2001
- Cast: Frank Oz, Jim Henson, Milton Berle
- Director: James Frawley
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Music and Sing-Along, Puppets
- Character strengths: Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: May 6, 2020
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