Throwback Thursdays: The Great Muppet Caper

The Great Muppet Caper is probably one of my favorite Muppet movies. I mean, it’s hard for me to actually dislike any Muppet movie, but still, this is one of the better ones. This movie came out in 1981 and is a mystery musical comedy. Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo are reporters for a newspaper called the Daily Chronicle who are investigating a robbery committed against prominent London fashion designer Lady Holiday. This eventually leads them on a wild adventure to prove Miss Piggy innocent when she is accused of stealing Lady Holiday’s jewels. I discovered the movie was available on Amazon Prime and was excited to watch an old classic, but while it was as hilarious as I remembered, some things in the movie sadly didn’t age so well.

The movie begins with Lady Holiday’s necklace being stolen, but Gonzo is too busy taking a picture of a chicken and Fozzie and Kermit decided to report on the fact that they were recently hired by the paper, and they all miss the story. The editor of the paper is understandably annoyed and fires Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo, who decide to redeem themselves by flying to England to speak to Lady Holiday herself. Meanwhile, Miss Piggy interviews with Lady Holiday to be a model, but ends up getting a job as her assistant. Kermit goes to interview Lady Holiday, but mistakes Miss Piggy for her. Miss Piggy encourages the misunderstanding because she falls in love with Kermit at first sight and wants to impress him. The two set up a dinner date together for the interview. Fozzie, Gonzo, and Kermit, however, have come to London with only twelve dollars to their name and set up shop at the Happiness Hotel run by the other Muppets. The place is a complete dive, but is also free, so the three move in.

When Kermit and Miss Piggy head out on their date, Fozzie and Gonzo accompany them. Kermit realizes at the restaurant that Piggy expects him to pay for everything, but since they have no money, Gonzo goes around taking pictures of the other wealthy clients for money. The real Lady Holiday arrives with her “good-for-nothing brother”, Nicky, who is actually the one stealing his sister’s jewels, along with three of the models hired by Lady Holiday. While at the restaurant, Nicky steals another of Lady Holiday’s necklaces, and this time Gonzo gets a picture of the event. But when they try to develop the picture in the bathroom at the Happiness Hotel, the other Muppets burst in and ruin the picture. Later, Nicky frames Miss Piggy for the stolen necklace, while also planning to steal Lady Holiday’s magnificent baseball diamond. Gonzo overhears the thief’s plan and the Muppets rally together to spot them and prove Miss Piggy innocent.

This is definitely one of the funniest Muppet movies. Perhaps the best joke in the movie is the running gag that Fozzie and Kermit are twin brothers, but that you can only tell that they are twins when Fozzie removes his hat. Another great scene in the movie is when Kermit and Miss Piggy get into a fight after he discovers she isn’t actually Lady Holiday. During the acted fight, Kermit and Miss Piggy get into a “real” fight when Kermit, out of character, criticizes Miss Piggy’s acting. The two eventually make up and go back to acting in the movie. That is probably one of the my favorite things about this movie: the constant breaking of the fourth wall. The Muppets often address the audience or argue with each other about the movie.

As always, I also love Miss Piggy. In this movie, Miss Piggy is hardly a damsel in distress. When she is locked in jail for a crime she didn’t commit, she doesn’t wait for Kermit, but breaks the bars and busts out on her own. She steals a motorcycle to get to where the other Muppets are and uses her karate skills to take down the bad guys. Aside from this we also see Miss Piggy going after what she wants throughout the movie. She is never afraid to speak her mind or stand up for herself. Miss Piggy is definitely a female character that helped me to feel empowered as a young girl.

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(via cineplex)

However, the other female characters are pretty lackluster. Lady Holiday is very one-note—she’s just posh, British, and demanding. She does state that she cares about her brother, which is why she takes care of him despite the fact that he squandered his inheritance, but we never really see any evidence of that. Furthermore, the two barely act like siblings at all; if the movie had never explained their relationship beyond being partners at work, nothing would have changed. The three female models who assist Nicky’s jewel thefts also have very little character development. They begin as models who get heavily criticized by Lady Holiday at the start of the movie. However, it’s revealed that they had been working with Nicky the whole time, so it doesn’t seem like that moment of criticism is why they joined with Nicky, and even if it were, it seems like a really underwhelming reason to start stealing diamonds. On top of this, when the Muppets fight the thieves in the museum, we see Animal running around chasing after the female thieves and screaming “woman” while he tries to get them. It seems like a little thing, but it definitely comes off rather rapey—it is not a joke that aged well.

All this being said, the early Muppet movies rarely utilized the human actors, who mostly featured in cameos instead of any larger roles. However, all these characters do have larger roles, so it makes little sense for them to not get more character development. Nicky gets a little more character development, but really not much more than Lady Holiday. In fact, in one scene, Kermit asks Nicky why he is doing all of this, and Nicky just responds “because I’m a villain”. So none of the human actors get much depth, not just the ladies, but the issue here is the issue with most Muppet movies: there are only two female Muppets in the cast, and only one of them is ever featured prominently. And sadly, that doesn’t seem to have changed much even in the more current Muppet movies.

Jim Henson cameo!

Jim Henson cameo! (via muppet wikia)

Overall, this was definitely one of my favorite Muppet movies and with some hilarious jokes, but in regards to feminist issues, it hasn’t really aged as well as some of the other Muppet films. It is still a goodie and an oldie that I would certainly recommend, but it’s not the progressive movie that I had hoped it would be.


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