Monday, December 30, 2013

The Great Muppet Caper / Muppet Treasure Island 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
TheGreatMuppetCaperAndMuppetTreasureIsland2MovieCollectionA treasure trove of hearty laughs is yours when two of the funniest, most action-packed Muppet movies of all time make their Disney Blu-ray debut in a 2-Movie Collection. From the special star-studded lunacy in Muppet Treasure Island to the jewel-heist hilarity ofThe Great Muppet Caper, these two classic comedy-adventures are packed with mirth, mayhem and, of course, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie, Gonzo and all your Muppet favorites.  Jim Henson’s whodunit heist-movie The Great Muppet Caper and the silly and swashbuckling high-seas adventure, Muppet Treasure Island, both restored and remastered, are loaded with unforgettable music and sparkling special effects. Two great movies plus a treasure trove of bonus features make the Collection the perfect holiday gift for Muppet fans and the entire family when it finally makes its Blu-ray debut this December.


Film (4 out of 5 stars)  

Great Muppet Caper (4 out of 5 stars)  Treasure Island (4 out of 5 stars)
After the critical and commercial success of The Muppet Movie, Jim Henson had the clout to continue to make more Muppet movies.  For his second Muppet film, The Great Muppet Caper, Henson directed the film himself which turned out to be the one and only time he did so, as he turned over the duties to Frank Oz.  Since the first movie covered how the Muppets got together, this time they went in a different direction as this movie is a heist film with musical numbers which is a combination you don’t see very often.
The conceit of this film is that Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear are identical twins (although other characters don’t realize it unless the both are wearing their hats),  who happen to be newspaper reporters along with Gonzo the Great.  They write for the Daily Chronicle but their boss Mike (Jack Warden) isn’t too thrilled with their job performance when a huge crime involving the theft of Lady Holiday’s (Diana Rigg) necklace happens next to them and they don’t even realize it.  They end up getting fired when they publish a front page story about their being hired by the paper instead of the theft.
Determined to get their jobs back, the trio travels to London to interview Lady Holiday but thanks to their limited funds they have to stay at a decrepit (but free) hotel called the Happiness Hotel that’s filled with more Muppets like Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem band, Scooter, The Swedish Chef, Sam the Eagle, Rizzo the Rat, and more.  When they go to interview Lady Holiday, they mistake Miss Piggy for her and she takes advantage of it and she goes along with it.  To play Lady Holiday however, Miss Piggy has to keep lying to maintain her role which forces her to to even sneak into a mansion that she claimed was her own, much to the befuddlement of the owners Neville (John Cleese) and his wife Dorcas (Joan Sanderson).  Miss Piggy gets into even more trouble when she is framed for a crime that she didn’t commit when Lady Holiday is robbed again in a nightclub where she was visiting with her brother Nicky (Charles Grodin).  Kermit and the gang have to discover who is the real thief behind the thefts and find a way to free Miss Piggy.
After the success of their first adaptation of a book, Muppet Christmas Carol, the Muppets followed that up with another one when they did their own version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale in Muppet Treasure Island.  This time they wouldn’t be as faithful to the original source as before, as they added new characters and modified other ones.  The overall story is the same – a young orphan named Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) works at an inn in England where he hears tales of adventure and of pirates from Billy Bones (Billy Connolly), a drunken patron who likes to tell the stories repeatedly.  Jim and his friends Gonzo the Great and Rizzo the Rat often hear Billy talk about Captain Flint (David Nicholls), who had his men bury his treasure on a remote island before killing them to keep the location secret.  Billy claims there’s no map to the treasure but when he is cursed by a fellow pirate and is about to die, he confesses to Jim that he has the map and gives it to the boy.
Barely escaping some evil pirates, Jim and his friends meet the not very bright son of Squire Trelawney (Fozzie Bear) who agrees to fun their voyage to find the treasure.  Along for the journey is Dr. Livesey (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew) and his assistant Beaker aboard the ship Hispaniola which is captained by Abraham Smollett (Kermit the Frog) and his first mate Mr. Arrow (Sam the Eagle). The boys also meet the ship’s cook, Long John Silver (Tim Curry), who seems very friendly but he’s also responsible for the hiring of the surly crew who don’t seem very trustworthy.  That fact is proven when the crew captures Gonzo and Rizzo in an attempt to force them into telling them where the map is.  Luck for them, Mr. Arrow puts an end to that but it ends up causing him trouble when the crew decides to trick Mr. Arrow into getting into a lifeboat and cast him off.  With Mr. Arrow gone, Captain Smollet realizes that the map isn’t safe in the midst of this cutthroat crew and orders Jim to give him the map to lock up in his cabin.
It’s not long before Silver and his cohorts are about to put their mutinous plan into  motion, but before they can take the ship, Smollett wisely makes the first move and orders Silver and his men to take a lifeboat to go to an island to get supplies so that he can leave them there.  Silver, realizing Smollet’s ulterior motive, tricks Jim and takes the young boy into the boat with them knowing that that Smollet will be forced to go after them, especially when he discovers that Silver has the treasure map too.  When Smollet and the others arrive on Treasure Island to save Jim, they are captured by wild pigs who are ruled over by Benjamina Gunn (Miss Piggy) who is very unhappy with Smollet because he broke off their engagement years before.  Meanwhile, Silver has followed the map to the treasure location only to find that the treasure is missing.  It will be a race to see who gets to the treasure first – Long John Silver and the pirates or Smollet’s group.
As a longtime fan of the Muppets, I of course love these movies.  What’s interesting about this set is that it shows the two different aspects of the Muppet movies, as The Great Muppet Caper is a throwback to “The Muppet Show” while Muppet Treasure Island is part of their adaption phase where the characters are just inserted into an existing story.  The Great Muppet Caper also has a bunch of great cameos from some famous folks like John Cleese, Peter Ustinov, and Peter Falk which always adds a lot of fun to these movies.  I’m glad that the most recent Muppet movie and the upcoming Muppets Most Wanted are going back to that kind of format because it works so well.  Muppet Treasure Island has no surprise cameos but it does have a bunch of songs that are mostly good.  Both movies offer a lot of humor and fun and they are the perfect way to prepare for Muppets Most Wanted.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)  

Great Muppet Caper (4 out of 5 stars)  Treasure Island (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
These 1080p (1.85:1) transfers offers a much better video presentation over the previous releases. The images for both movies have been cleaned up and the usual defects that plague these older movies have been removed.  Detail is very good for the most part although both movies do have some soft looking scenes.  Flesh tones are slightly uneven at times as some faces are more reddish than usual.  The black levels are decent but not as solid as they could have been.  Out of the two transfers, Muppet Treasure Island looks the best as it offers the sharpest picture of the two, but both of these look pretty good.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)  

Great Muppet Caper (4 out of 5 stars)  Treasure Island (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Great Muppet Caper’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and the Muppet Treasure Island’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 mix both offer a decent listening experience but out of the two, Muppet Treasure Island is the winner.  While both of the films offer clear dialogue and music, The Great Muppet Caper doesn’t offer much rear channel activity.  Treasure Island however, delivers quite a bit of ambiance and cross channel effects that are accurate and lively.  Neither mix suffers from age related issues like hissing etc.  I was surprised to learn that Hans Zimmer provided the score for the film which gave him some good practice for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies later.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars) 

I was hoping for more extras on this two-movie set,  but at least they added some special features for the set.  The extras are also in standard definition.
  • Frog-E-Oke - There’s a collection of songs from both movies that you can sing along to with “Steppin’ out with a Star” and “Happiness Hotel” from The Great Muppet Caper and “Cabin Fever” from Muppet Treasure Island.
  • Audio Commentary - Director Brian Henson, Gonzo the Great, and Rizzo the Rat join together for a commentary for Muppet Treasure Island.
  • The Tail of the Story Beyond the Tail – This is the best extra on the set as this featurette lasts over twenty one minutes and it covers the making of Muppet Treasure Island with Gonzo the Great and Rizzo the Rat hosting this behind the scenes look.  We hear from director Brian Henson, writer Kirk Thatcher, production designer Val Strazovec, and stars Tim Curry, Kevin Bishop, Billy Connolly, Dave Goelz, and Steve Whitmire who talk about working on the movie.
  • “Let the Good Shine Out” Music Video
  • DVD copy for each film

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

It’s great that these movies are finally on Blu-ray and for the most part the Blu-ray itself is very good.  The video and audio quality is excellent but the extras could have been more extensive. Both movies are  a lot of fun and if you are a fan of The Muppets (and who isn’t?), then you should pick up this set!
Order your copy today!

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