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As a fan, I am not ashamed to admit that I really love all the Muppet movies. Sure, some will say that they are intended for a juvenile audience, but I think these movies are genuinely funny and the Muppet characters are absolutely delightful. But then again, maybe I’ve never grown up. THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER ($20) is certainly one of the funniest films in the series, thanks to a rib tickling plot that allows the Muppets to "break character" whenever it will get a cheap laugh. The movie also features a number of delightful musical numbers, including an Esther Williams water ballet parody that had me rolling on the floor with laughter.

In THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER, we find Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear portraying identical twin brothers, who are working as newspaper reporters. When the blow a big story involving a daring daylight jewel robbery, they find themselves fired from the newspaper. Hoping to redeem themselves and get their jobs back, Kermit and Fozzie travel to England to interview robbery victim Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg) and discover who stole her jewelry. Of course, when Kermit shows up at Lady Holiday’s office, he mistakes Miss Piggy for the wealthy fashion designer and winds up on a date with the sow of his dreams. My favorite aspect of THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER is the funny subplot involving Kermit’s rival for Miss Piggy’s affections. Charles Grodin is an absolute scream as the lovesick Nicky Holiday, who pines away for the porcine wannabe fashion model. Like the other Muppet films, THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER includes celebrity cameos that feature John Cleese, Robert Morley, Peter Ustinov and Peter Falk.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER available in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. A cropped presentation is also available on the other side of the disc, but this review will deal specifically with the wide screen version of the film. The transfer is quite nice, but owing to the fact that THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER was a relatively low budget production, there are limitations in the original cinematography that are apparent in the presentation. Some film grain is noticeable throughout the movie; it’s not bad, but it is definitely there. Despite the grain, the image is reasonably sharp and provides a decent level of detail. Colors are a bit subdued in places, but generally offer good saturation and appealing flesh tones. Blacks are pretty accurate and the contrast is fine, although shadow detail is sometimes less than inspiring. Columbia TriStar certainly really did the best they could with the elements on hand, but I guess there is no way that even they could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (sorry Miss Piggy!). Digital compression artifacts remained out of sight throughout.

THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER has been given a new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix for its release on DVD. There are a number of sonic limitations in the original sound elements that the new mix couldn’t overcome, but having THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER in 5.1 is certainly somewhat livelier than monaural or even standard Dolby Surround. Dialogue remains well centered, although some of the voices sound a bit thin. There are a few directional sound effects in the new mix, but they are never pushed into the realm of forced artificiality. The only time all the channels become active is during the film’s musical numbers. Musical fidelity isn’t what anyone would consider as high, but the numbers do sound pleasant and will take a fair amount of amplification, without becoming harsh or distorted. English Dolby Surround, plus French and Spanish language tracks are also encoded onto the DVD. Subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. The DVD contains three Muppetisms, which are brief television spot that feature the characters in mildly humorous "message" moments. Because there is no trailer for THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER is included, Columbia TriStar again has thrown in bonus trailers for other DVD titles marketed to kids.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER again on DVD. Certainly the disc isn’t demonstration material, but it is an accurate representation of an older, low budget film that doesn’t offer any visual and sonic pyrotechnics. This disc should delight Muppet fans, since it allows them to enjoy the characters and their hilarious exploits in their own homes.


The Great Muppet Caper


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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