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Blu-ray Reviews

Muppet Treasure Island/The Great Muppet Caper Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted December 06 2013 - 02:49 PM

Muppet Treasure Island/The Great Muppet Caper Blu-ray Review

After the huge success of The Muppet Movie, it seemed as though the Muppets had become primo movie stars, and the next film happened two years later. However, The Great Muppet Caper and its immediate follow-ups drew increasingly smaller audiences. Years later, the Henson family through Disney brought the Muppets back in a couple of adaptations of classic tales with the Muppets playing supporting roles. Muppet Treasure Island was the follow-up to Muppet Christmas Carol, both meeting with only average audience favor. On home video, of course, all of the Muppet films are favorites of families with their broad jokes and Muppet-infused musical numbers. Both films in this package certainly have both of those prime Muppet elements making for merry, mirthful viewing.


Cover Art


Studio: Disney

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English 5.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 2.0 DD, French 5.1 DD, German 5.0 DD

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other

Rating: G

Run Time: 1 Hr. 36 Min./ 1 Hr. 39 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD

keep case in a slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: ABC

Release Date: 12/10/2013

MSRP: $29.99




The Production Rating: 4/5

The Great Muppet Caper – 3.5/5

Newly hired then fired ace reporters Kermit (Jim Henson) and Fozzie (Frank Oz) try to get their jobs on a New York City newspaper back by traveling to London to crack the case of the stolen diamonds of Lady Holliday (Diana Rigg), esteemed fashion designer. The culprit is her ne’er-do-well brother Nicky (Charles Grodin) with three of his sister's models as his gang, but Nicky, though smitten with Miss Piggy, decides that implicating new receptionist Miss Piggy (Frank Oz) is the best way to keep the police from discovering the true identities of the thieves. Kermit, Fozzie, and photographer Gonzo (Dave Goelz) know the truth and make it their business to clear Miss Piggy and catch the thieves in the act of stealing their biggest target yet, the Baseball Diamond.

Though the production was filmed in England, efforts were made to expand on the success of the previous film by enlarging the production in every way possible: since Kermit rode a bike in the first film, now the entire Muppet gallery rides bikes in the big number “Couldn’t We Ride”; Miss Piggy’s love song in the first film gives rise to another here “The First Time It Happens” which turns into one of two huge production numbers for her, tapping in this one and swimming in a later Esther Williams-inspired aquacade number. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem have two noisy big moments, but Kermit’s simpler “Steppin’ Out with a Star” is actually more appealing. The script by Tom Patchett, Jay Tarses, Jerry Juhl, and Jack Rose includes many knowing references by the Muppets that they’re in a movie (the joke gets old quickly) and running gags with a dropping light bulb and Gonzo’s unending snapshots of everyone and everything also wear out their welcomes. There are plenty of cameos this time around, among them John Cleese, Robert Morley, Peter Ustinov, Peter Falk and Jack Warden, but despite some funny jokes and the always appealing Muppet personalities, the film just feels too big for its own britches with too much filler to expand a too simple and not particularly interesting story. Diana Rigg and Charles Grodin appear to be enjoying their time with the Muppets, but the simple pleasures and charm of the first film were impossible to recapture in this more overproduced entry.


Muppet Treasure Island – 4/5

When a treasure map comes into his possession, Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) takes it to ship builder and owner Squire Trelawney (Frank Oz’s Fozzie Bear) in order to outfit a ship with a full crew to sail to a remote island to garner the wealth. But the squire unknowingly hires for his crew a misfit bunch of pirates led by the larcenous Long John Silver (Tim Curry) who, once they arrive at the island, takes over the ship captained by Abraham Smollett (Steve Whitmire’s Kermit the Frog). However, when they reach the burial place for the treasure, they discover it has already been removed, taken and hidden by Benjamina Gunn (Frank Oz’s Miss Piggy) who’s been stranded on the island for years after being jilted by Captain Smollett.

Until the crew reaches the treasure island, the film is reasonably faithful to Robert Louis Stevenson’s original story (minus the plethora of musical numbers, of course), but all bets are off after that as the movie story (script by Jerry Juhl, Kirk R. Thatcher, and James V. Hart) goes in its own direction. The Muppets are mostly supporting characters in the adventure drama, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t push their way to the front in any scene in which they can get the upper hand, and by the end of the film, places have been found for most of them to find the spotlight for a moment or two The song score by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil starts things off with a tidy expository number “Shiver My Timbers.” Jim gets a standard “I want” song “There’s Got to Be Something Better,” and two production numbers utilize the large cast of humans and Muppets: “Sailing for Adventure” as they get underway and the irrepressible “Cabin Fever” mambo number in the center of the film. Miss Piggy fans will likely get antsy since it’s more than a hour before she makes her first appearance, but, of course, she gets a love song with Kermit “Love Led Us Here” (shot rather entertainingly while the characters are upside down). Top-billed Tim Curry doesn’t quite catch the full spit and pirate polish of Silver, but he handles his one solo song “When You’re a Professional Pirate” well enough.



Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The Great Muppet Caper – 4/5

The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is replicated in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Though film-like and clean of age-related artifacts, the transfer occasionally has a dated look about it. Sharpness ranges from good to very good and color saturation levels are rich though flesh tones tend to go too rosy pink fairly often. Black levels are rather average. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.

Muppet Treasure Island – 4.5/5

The 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. By far the better of the two transfers, this one looks for the most part superb. Sharpness is excellent throughout, and apart from some inconsistent contrast levels, color values are solid and flesh tones are more appealing than in the previous film. Black levels and shadow detail are better as well. The film has been divided into 26 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4.5/5

The Great Muppet Caper – 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix only rarely uses the rear channels for an occasional ambient sound or spillover of the music from the front channels (it was probably repurposed from a 2.0 stereo recording). Dialogue is always clearly recorded and quite audible, and there are no annoying age-related artifacts like hiss or crackle to mar the listening experience.

Muppet Treasure Island – 4.5/5

Though the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 sound mix doesn’t offer a dedicated LFE channel signal, the overall impact of the sound design is much more sophisticated from the earlier effort. This is a true surround mix with the music generously spread through the fronts and rears with outstanding fidelity. There are some directionalized voices and when Miss Piggy stumbles through the frame, her voice also stumbles through the soundfield from left to right and back to front very entertainingly. The dialogue has been nicely recorded and mostly appears in the center channel. No age-related artifacts mar the listening experience.



Special Features Rating: 3/5

Frog-E-Oke (1:25, 2:17, 2:08, HD): sing alongs for two numbers from The Great Muppet Caper: “Steppin’ out with a Star” and “Happiness Hotel” and “Cabin Fever” from Muppet Treasure Island.

Audio Commentary: director Brian Henson is joined by Gonzo and Rizzo for a rather uninspired commentary on Muppet Treasure Island.

The Tail of the Story Beyond the Tail (21:40, SD): Gonzo (Dave Goelz) and Rizzo (Steve Whitmire) host the making of documentary which features brief interviews with director Brian Henson, writer Kirk Thatcher, production designer Val Strazovec, and stars Kevin Bishop, Billy Connolly (who plays Billy Bones with the proper amount of pirate sass), Tim Curry, and Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire as themselves.

“Let the Good Shine Out” Music Video (3:23, SD): featuring Kermit and the gang.

DVD copies: each film on a separate DVD enclosed in the case.

Promo Trailers (HD): The Jungle Book, Muppets Most Wanted, and Mary Poppins.



Overall Rating: 4/5

Two more Muppet films come to Blu-ray with this double feature of The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island. Fans will be very pleased with the transfer on both (particularly the latter) and will likely be anxiously awaiting the next release in the series on Blu-ray.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted December 06 2013 - 03:56 PM

Thanks for the review, Matt; I always enjoyed this two, as well.
 
I was wondering about the soundtrack on Caper, though. Ever since the early 90s, video releases have used a soundtrack containing several differences from the original version. Most notably, The song "Night Life" contains a vocal from Dr. Teeth. Also...

 

Spoiler

 

Have these bits been restored to their original versions? I know they're small things, but I always wondered why they were changed in the first place.


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#3 of 8 ONLINE   Osato

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Posted December 06 2013 - 05:19 PM

Thanks for the review on this disc!



#4 of 8 OFFLINE   SilverWook

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Posted December 06 2013 - 10:04 PM

I recall reading somewhere Jim wasn't happy with how Universal handled the release of TGMC in the U.S. I can't imagine what he thought of the Woody Woodpecker cartoon they tacked onto prints of The Dark Crystal!

 

TGMC is still a hoot. I appreciate the jokes even more as an adult. I use the line "It's plot exposition, it has to go somewhere!" all the time. :)



#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted December 07 2013 - 04:40 AM

Thanks for the review, Matt; I always enjoyed this two, as well.
 
I was wondering about the soundtrack on Caper, though. Ever since the early 90s, video releases have used a soundtrack containing several differences from the original version. Most notably, The song "Night Life" contains a vocal from Dr. Teeth. Also...
 

Spoiler

 
Have these bits been restored to their original versions? I know they're small things, but I always wondered why they were changed in the first place.


If I can find some time today, I'll check, but my spotty memory of it is to say no, they have not been restored.

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted December 12 2013 - 01:58 PM

Picked this up yesterday, and it's still the revised audio. I guess it's not a huge deal, but it's just weird. I wonder if these were differences between the US and UK theatrical releases or something.

 

Maybe it's because this is how it was when I first saw it, but I prefer the instrumental "Night Life," and I miss Piggy's signature yell when she dives off the motorcycle. Oh well.


"Flying a plane is no different from riding a bicycle; it's just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes."

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted December 12 2013 - 03:14 PM

Glad you found the answer, and sorry I wasn't able to help. As you can tell from the review I've just posted, I've been very busy with the Martin Scorsese World Cinema Project box set.



#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted December 12 2013 - 04:06 PM

Thanks; I'm not sure why I obsess about this sort of thing so much. I guess because I work in post-production and have done a little sound design here and there, I'm always curious about why and how noticeable differences like this occur on various releases.


"Flying a plane is no different from riding a bicycle; it's just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes."





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