* * 1/2
When the best thing in a movie is its subject then you know the rest of the movie pales in comparison. The Muppets, from the television series, are the best thing in their first feature film, The Muppet Movie, from 1979.
They are a colorful bunch, performed by Jim Henson, Frank Oz. Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Golez who all have more than one role to attend to. The characterizations are all wonderfully amusing. The main ones are Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear, but lots of people find the supporting Muppets just as amusing if not more so.
The Muppets, because they are adorable, get away with bad jokes – the old saying of a “fork in the road” is literally a fork in the road (groan), but there are the better gags, such as the car crash where one vehicle lands on top of the other, quite safely, and Animal rising to Godzilla height after downing some powdery sugary substance is a good one. But the real laughs are few and far between, if at all.
In this, the original Muppet Movie, Kermit the Frog is propelled into going to Hollywood by a mysterious visitor (Dom Deluise) who encouraged the frog to live a dream by getting into the movies.
At the time, it happened that Kermit the Frog, a Muppet (performed for the screen by Jim Henson) was in his swamp home, singing about the dream coming true. Sung Kermit: “One day we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers and dreamers, and me.”
Then someone just turns up out of nowhere and inspires Kermit to go in pursuit of the dream and off he goes on a road trip with friends to Hollywood while shady businessmen (Charles Durning and Austin Pendleton) are after them with their own nefarious purposes.
In the end, I think that The Muppet Movie is saying that end goal of that dream is to cheer people up. Looking closer, the illogical plot typical of The Muppets does not detract from the fun. This movie is loud, bright, and bouncy on further inspection. But all rather uninvolving, leaving the cute little Muppets to take the honors.