(Release date: August 13, 2013) - Three years after Jim Henson's "The Muppet Show" premiered on television, the beloved gang of puppets got their first feature film with 1979's "The Muppet Movie," directed by James Frawley. It is easy to see why audiences fast fell in love with these characters and their quick-witted, pun-heavy humor. The story is fairly simple, with Kermit the Frog (voiced by Jim Henson) leaving behind his swamp home when he learns of a casting call for frogs at Hollywood's glamorous World Wide Studios. Meeting a bunch of newfound friends along the way, including failed comic Fozzie Bear (voiced by Frank Oz) and starry-eyed Miss Piggy (Oz again), Kermit hits the road for L.A. with the whole lot of them dreaming of the big time. Featuring the lovely Oscar-nominated song "The Rainbow Connection," "The Muppet Movie" is a delight, so overstuffed with one-liners and double-entendres it's impossible to even catch them all. Though the road trip itself goes a little long, the film truly holds up despite being thirty-four years young. One of the only aspects to be out-of-date? The then-all-star cameos, including Orson Welles, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Richard Pryor, and Steve Martin, among many others. Kids in 2013 will have no idea who most of them are. Actually, anyone under thirty-five might be hard-pressed to recognize them all.
Disney's high-definition 1:85:1 widescreen transfer is impressive for the most part, properly dimensional and candy-coated the majority of time. It is clear, however, that extra steps to better restore the material were not taken. The film has an overwhelming softness to its visuals, no doubt a result of the late-'70s shooting and film stock, and at least one segmentMiss Piggy's dream sequenceis such a grainy, noisy mess it's almost difficult to make out. The rest, however, holds up nicely and surely has never looked so good on home video. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is disappointingly front-heavy and rather finny at times. While dialogue is easy to discern and the songs come off well, the soundtrack lacks the robust fullness one expects from a lossless 5.1 track.
Jim Frawley's Extended Camera, including previously unseen footage (17:53, HD); Interactive Disney Intermission, Starring the Muppets; Pepe Profiles - "Kermit: A Frog's Life" Featurette (6:34, SD); All-New Interactive Frog-E-Oke Sing-Along (HD); Doc Hooper's Commercial (1:03, HD); Teaser trailer (1:25, HD) and theatrical trailer (4:21, HD)
In celebration of being (almost) thirty-five, Disney's Blu-ray release of "The Muppet Movie" is a pleasure to watch, if not quite as stunning as one might hope in regards to picture and sound. The special features are also on the light side. Fortunately, the movie itself is a joy, a quality family picture certain to cast its enjoyable spell on audiences of every age. "The Muppet Movie" on Blu-ray comes easily recommended.