Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Silly Nate Film Club - The Great Muppet Caper

     It's been a little while since I've posted anything, and it's been an even less little while since I've done an installment of the Silly Nate Film Club. Since all I really do with this thing is gush on and on about random movies I like, I was thinking about putting the kibosh on it altogether, but then I got to thinking about how much negative content there is out there in relation to movies and pop culture in general. Whether it's "10 Reasons This Movie Sucks" or "5 Things to Hate About The Movie You Previously Loved," all the nerds seem to have a serious beef with something and are taking it out on our nostalgia! So I figured, a little gushing from time to time certainly couldn't hurt. 

     The film I'll be gushing over today is one that's always been towards the top of my personal "Movies That Make Ya Feel Good" list. From 1981, it's The Great Muppet Caper!

"Nice title!"
     This is the second film in what I consider to be the Muppet Trilogy (The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan) and definitely my favorite. For the first installment, The Muppet Movie, Jim Henson handed the directing responsibilities over to James Frawley, but for The Great Muppet Caper, he took the helm making this his directorial debut! This may be the reason why I love it as much as I do. His love of musical numbers, comedic takes, special effects, and just movies in general seem to shine through from beginning to end.

As well as his love of dining on the... tops of... pineapples? What's that all about?!
     In a time of cinematic universes, and never ending debates over what is and isn't canon, it's refreshing to look back at a movie that basically just says, "Screw it. Let's be nutty." They're the same Muppets we love, but with a premise different than the usual "We gotta make it into show business!" storyline. They've already made it... and this is the madcap nonsense that they've produced as a result. Kermit and Fozzie are identical twins, Charles Grodin plays the American brother to Diana Rigg's British Lady Holiday, and the entire supporting ensemble of Muppets live in a dilapidated London hotel without any explanation! It’s glorious insanity as only the Muppets can deliver!

With plenty of paper towels!
     What The Great Muppet Caper proves is that the Muppet characters aren't nailed down to a specific premise. Their stories don't define them. They're characters that are so well developed, they can be in a wide variety of different situations and still feel familiar. Fozzie Bear is Fozzie Bear, whether he's a struggling comedian or a wannabe newspaper reporter, he’s the same lovable bear regardless of what duties the script assigns him. This, to me, helps the brilliant illusion that the Muppets are actually real people. This, like the big opening musical number states, is a movie within a movie… and the Muppets are just the film’s players doing a comically horrible job staying in character.

"I don't need this lousy Duck Pond!"
     This type of thing was done again in films like A Muppet Christmas Carol or Muppet Treasure Island, but The Great Muppet Caper did it first, and in my opinion, best!

     And now’s the part of the show where I gush about specific moments in the movie that I love so much.

...I need to come up with another word to use besides ‘gush’. I’m starting to feel gross.

HiiiiiiiiiiYaa-ing the Fourth Wall - While I’m not entirely a fan of the term “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” I usually love whenever it happens. The same goes for a good running gag. The Great Muppet Caper is, by no means, exclusive when it comes to the Muppets and these techniques. They’re practically Muppet staples! But there’s just something about the times they’re used in this movie that I like a little more. No reason why. Charles Grodin’s character being called out by Miss Piggy on his dubbed singing voice, or Miss Piggy climbing the side of a building while demanding a stunt double are some great fourth wall-breaking moments that add to the whole movie within a movie aspect. (There’s probably a joke in there somewhere about Miss Piggy being good at wall-breaking, but I’ll refrain from making it.)

     And as far as running gags go, the whole Caught Red-Handed/What Color Are Their Hands Now routine is nothing short of cinematic poetry!

Muppets on Bicycles - Speaking of cinematic… good… stuff, the scene in The Great Muppet Caper where the Muppets all ride through the park on bicycles is one of the greatest special effects in the entirety of film history! I went to film school, worked in the field of video production for almost two decades, and watched James Cameron’s Avatar more times than any functional human being ever really should, and NOTHING get’s a bigger “How’d they do that?” from me than when Kermit and Company go peddling down that sidewalk. And while I may just be bragging about my own incompetence there, you still have to admit that Jim Henson and his team worked some pretty amazing pre-CGI movie magic with all of this!

The Pets Are Dead - The Great Muppet Caper was written by Tom Patchett, Jay Tarses, Jerry Juhl, and Jack Rose who are a bunch of dudes whom I think (SURPRISE!) did a fabulous job! One scene that stands out to me as being beautifully written is the humorously dull conversation between the older British couple played by John Cleese and Joan Sanderson. The subject of the conversation is basically NOTHING, yet the subtlety of the gags mixed with the timing of the actors manages to crack me up to this day!

The Pig Walks at Night - I don't know if he’s made it this far into this post, but in case he has, this last bit is for a friend of mine. There’s a quick shot in the film of a sad Miss Piggy walking down an empty street at night. It’s filmed from a high angle looking down and is basically just a far off shot of a person wearing a Miss Piggy mask. As brief as it is, it really creeps out a friend of mine… so… yeah. Look upon her, Jim. Look upon her and dream!

Also… Drew Struzan Poster! GUSH!!!!!!!!!!

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