The Muppet Movie takes it upon itself to be all things… well, two things. It has to be appealing to kids and adults. The film is split roughly in half between the audiences, with the adults having more to appreciate in the star cameos–some cute, some hilarious (Steve Martin in short shorts)–and terrible puns and the kids have the songs.
To keep the kids amused during the more “adult” parts, there are the Muppets. The level of puppetry on display here is staggering, particularly once one realizes only a couple of the Muppets have moving eyes. The others just give the impression of moving, lifelike eyes through head tilts and reaction motion. Jim Henson and the Muppet performers show a masterful understanding of how the slightest motion implies real animation.
But the adults also have to be kept amused during the song sequences, which is a little harder, even though the Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher songs are great. There’s occasional humor, but there’s also amazing filmmaking. Director Frawley does a great job, as does Isidore Mankofsky’s photography and Christopher Greenbury’s editing. The Muppet Movie‘s beautifully made… and they know it.
The script frequently breaks the fourth wall, including references to how great some of the previous shots came out. The only bad shot is during Dom DeLuise’s cameo, like his close-ups had to be reshot.
The film’s idealistic and infectious. If you can believe the Muppets are real… you can believe in the film’s positive, inspiring message.
Directed by James Frawley; written by Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl; director of photography, Isidore Mankofsky; edited by Christopher Greenbury; music by Paul Williams; production designer, Joel Schiller; produced by Jim Henson; released by Associated Film Distribution.
Starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt and Dave Goelz as the Muppets and Caroll Spinney (Big Bird).
Starring Charles Durning (Doc Hopper), Austin Pendleton (Max), Dom DeLuise (Bernie the Agent), Mel Brooks (Professor Max Krassman), Orson Welles (Lew Lord), Carol Kane (Myth) and Steve Martin (an insolent waiter).
Posted in 1979, Adventure, Associated Film Distribution, Color, Comedy, English, Family, Musical, UK, USA
Tagged Austin Pendleton, Carol Kane, Caroll Spinney, Charles Durning, Christopher Greenbury, Dave Goelz, Dom DeLuise, Frank Oz, Isidore Mankofsky, Jack Burns, James Frawley, Jerry Juhl, Jerry Nelson, Jim Henson, Joel Schiller, Mel Brooks, Orson Welles, Paul Williams, Richard Hunt, Steve Martin
Narrow Margin plays like a TV pilot for Gene Hackman as a crusading (but big mouthed) district attorney. There’s not a lot of depth to the characters and Hyams is never able, even with some great Panavision composition throughout, to make it feel cinematic. Maybe it’s the lack of establishing shots.
Most of the film takes place on a train as Hackman tries to protect uncooperative witness Anne Archer from the mob. But Hyams’s plotting is all action oriented. There are only two character moments in the entire picture. One is for James Sikking as a bad guy, as he banters with Hackman. It’s a great scene as far as dialogue; Sikking is excellent in the film. The other character moment is for Archer and she’s awful. She’s slight throughout the whole film, but she fails her monologue. Sadly, Hyams’s direction of the scene–and James Mitchell’s editing of it–is fantastic.
If it weren’t for Archer, the film would probably be a little bit more successful, but not much. It’s a quick and easy (and presumably cheap) thriller and there’s not enough time to make it good. Hyams tries to bring in a cast of suspects on the train, but it’s only a handful of people. Narrow Margin always feels a little too cramped.
Hackman’s good in the film, even though it doesn’t give him much to do.
Hyams’s photography is good, sometimes great; he really seems to like trains.
Great Bruce Broughton score.
Narrow Margin is almost okay.
Directed and photographed by Peter Hyams; screenplay by Hyams, based on a screenplay by Earl Fenton and a story by Martin Goldsmith and Jack Leonard; edited by James Mitchell; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, Joel Schiller; produced by Jonathan A. Zimbert; released by Tri-Star Pictures.
Starring Gene Hackman (Caulfield), Anne Archer (Carol Hunnicut), James Sikking (Nelson), J.T. Walsh (Michael Tarlow), M. Emmet Walsh (Sgt. Dominick Benti), Susan Hogan (Kathryn Weller), Nigel Bennett (Jack Wootton), J.A. Preston (Martin Larner), Kevin McNulty (James Dahlbeck) and Harris Yulin (Leo Watts).
Posted in 1990, Action, Color, Crime, English, Thriller, Tri-Star Pictures, USA
Tagged Anne Archer, Bruce Broughton, Earl Fenton, Gene Hackman, Harris Yulin, J.A. Preston, J.T. Walsh, Jack Leonard, James Mitchell, James Sikking, Joel Schiller, Jonathan A. Zimbert, Kevin McNulty, M. Emmet Walsh, Martin Goldsmith, Nigel Bennett, Peter Hyams, Susan Hogan