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Originally published November 22, 2011 at 10:05 AM | Page modified November 22, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Scarecrow Video recommendations for 'The Muppets'

How many times will the word "Muppet" appear in the following article?

quotes Are you KIDDING me? the Great Muppet Caper should be listed down there with Showgirls... Read more

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How many times will the word "Muppet" appear in the following article?

Wow, has it really been 12 years since the last theatrically released Muppet movie? Actually, with the exception of the made-for-TV "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz," there hasn't been a Muppet film at all since 1999's "Muppets From Space." This week sees the unveiling of the creatively titled "The Muppets," which finds Jim Henson's lasting legacy entrusted to comedian Jason Segel and director James Bobin (incongruously, perhaps, most well-know for his work on "Da Ali G Show" and, more appropriately, "Flight of the Conchords").

Anyway, this new film promises a return to the spirit of the original The Muppet Show and 1979 film "The Muppet Movie" with a "let's put on a show"-style story involving Kermit and the gang trying to save the old Muppet theater from a greedy oil baron.

Personally, aside from the aforementioned and underrated "Muppets From Space," my favorite entry in the franchise is 1981's "The Great Muppet Caper." It's sort of the perfect kids movie for grownups, what with its retrofitted heist plot and a hilarious turn by Charles Grodin as the villain. It's also a little less sappy than other entries, which sits well with me as I like my Muppets a little less kid-friendly. But Henson's creations weren't limited to Kermit and Piggy

One largely forgotten bit of Muppet history is the 1988 TV series The Storyteller. It stars John Hurt as the titular character, an old man who spins various old European folk tales, each brought to life by Henson's legendary creature shop. The series ran for a brief nine episodes. Almost all were written by the late Anthony Minghella, who famously directed "The English Patient," and his simple but lyrical style is all over the show. There was a follow-up the next year, entitled "The Storyteller: The Greek Myths," which replaced Hurt with future Dumbledore Michael Gambon. It's long out of print, but you can of course find it at Scarecrow.

Henson of course was instrumental in the creation of Sesame Street as well, and one of my favorite bits of Sesame esoterica is 1983's "Big Bird in Japan," which ... well, I probably don't need to explain what it's about. As a child I was (and I remain) fascinated with Japanese culture, and so seeing Bird and Barkley (a favorite Muppet of mine) traipsing around that beautiful country endlessly amused me. There's a fair bit of slapstick, but the culture-clash humor is light and earnest, and the story even takes a few surreally dark turns towards the end. Maybe not for everyone, but you don't need to have a kid in the house in order to enjoy it.

Now if only we can get the old "Muppet Babies" cartoons released on DVD. We'll be back next week!




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