The Great Muppet Caper is a 1981 mystery musical comedy film directed by Jim Henson. It is the second of a series of live-action musical feature films, starring Jim Henson's Muppets. This film was produced by Henson Associates, and released by Universal Pictures1 on June 26, 1981. It is also the only Muppet feature film directed by Henson. Shot in England, the film was released shortly after the final season of The Muppet Show.
Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo the Great play newspaper reporters for the Daily Chronicle. Kermit and Fozzie, specifically, are playing identical twin reporters, which becomes the source of a running gag - supposedly, nobody can tell they are twins unless Fozzie wears his hat. While Gonzo is too busy taking pictures of a chicken, prominent London fashion designer Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg) gets robbed of her jewels. The trio are eventually assigned to investigate the theft of the valuable jewels from Lady Holiday, which they have to beg for after their boss Mike Tarkenian (Jack Warden) dismisses them following the Daily Chronicle's headline about the twins joining the staff (while the other papers report on the jewel heist).
They travel to London to interview her, but with only $12 for the trip, they are forced to fly in the airplane's baggage hold and are thrown out of the plane as they arrive over Britain while it continues on to Italy. They stay at the dilapidated (but free) Happiness Hotel which run by Pops and populated by Scooter, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, Sam Eagle, Swedish Chef, Rizzo the Rat, Annie Sue, and Lubbuck Lou and his Jughuggers. When Kermit seeks out Lady Holiday in her office however, he instead finds the alluring Miss Piggy, and mistakes her for the fashion designer. Piggy (who was interviewing for a job) masquerades as Lady Holliday, even going so far as to sneak into a ritzy townhouse (located at 17 Highbrow Street) to impress Kermit with her dwellings much to the surprise of the true British residents Neville (John Cleese) and Dorcas (Joan Sanderson).
At a night club restaurant, Lady Holiday's necklace is stolen by her jealous brother Nicky (Charles Grodin) and his assistants Carla (Kate Howard), Marla (Erica Creer), and Darla (Della Finch), three of her put-upon fashion models, the very same thieves who robbed her before. After the robbery, Miss Piggy's charade is revealed and she bolts, leaving Kermit behind, though they later reconcile in a park. Despite Nicky's instant attraction to Miss Piggy, they successfully frame her for the theft and plan to steal an even more valuable prize: Lady Holliday's largest and most valuable jewel, the Fabulous Baseball Diamond, now on display at the local Mallory Gallery. Unfortunately for them, Gonzo is under a nearby table and overhears the plot. Kermit's crew, along with their friends from the Happiness Hotel, decide to intercept and catch the thieves themselves in order to exonerate Miss Piggy.
The Muppets get to the Mallory Gallery, and get to the Baseball Diamond at the same time as the thieves, use the Baseball Diamond in a game of Keep Away and later baseball, complete with Louis Kazagger commentating. Piggy, meanwhile, has escaped from prison and, in a bout of serendipity, finds a motorcycle which she uses to crash into the Gallery's window, knocking Nicky, who is holding Kermit hostage, out in the process. Carla, Marla and Darla confront Piggy, only to be quickly dispatched by a flurry of furious karate chops. As the police arrive, Piggy is cleared from all charges, Nicky and his fashion model-accomplices are arrested, and the Muppets get their deserved credit for foiling the heist.
The Muppets then return to America the same way they departed, being thrown out of the cargo hold and parachuting back to The USA, over the end credits which concludes with Gonzo taking a photo of the audience with his overly powerful flashbulb causing the screen to go black as if he blinded his subjects again.
- Charles Grodin as Nicky Holiday, Lady Holiday's irresponsible brother and the principal antagonist of the film. He is responsible for the jewel heists on his sister with the help of three of her fashion models, Carla, Darla, and Marla.
- Diana Rigg as Lady Holiday, a famous British fashion designer who has been the victim of a jewel heist.
- Erica Creer as Marla
- Kate Howard as Carla
- Della Finch as Darla
- Joan Sanderson as Dorcas, Neville's wife. Joan Sanderson previously appeared alongside John Cleese in the Fawlty Towers episode "Communication Problems."
- Michael Robbins as Henderson, the Mallory Gallery's security guard.
- Peter Hughes as Stanley, a Maitre D' at the Dubonnet Club and an old acquaintance and favoured patron of Lady Holiday.
- Peggy Aitchison as a guard at the prison where Miss Piggy is detained.
- Tommy Godfrey as a bus conductor.
- Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, Waldorf, the Swedish Chef, The Muppet Newsman
- Frank Oz as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam Eagle
- Jerry Nelson as Floyd Pepper, Pops, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Camilla the Chicken, Louis Kazagger, Slim Wilson
- Richard Hunt as Scooter, Statler, Sweetums, Janice, Beaker
- Dave Goelz as The Great Gonzo, Beauregard, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
- Steve Whitmire as Rizzo the Rat, Lips
- Caroll Spinney as Oscar the Grouch (brief cameo with Peter Ustinov)
- Louise Gold as Annie Sue, Lou
- Kathryn Mullen as Gaffer
- Kiran Shah as Miss Piggy (full-bodied stunt double)
Additional Muppets performed by Robbie Barnett, Brian Henson, Brian Muehl, Bob Payne, Mike Quinn, and Hugh Spight
Some of the puppeteers also appear in cameo roles:
- Jim Henson as one of the Dubonnet Club patrons to whom Gonzo offers a souvenir photo with Amy van Gilder.
- Frank Oz as a reporter in the Daily Chronicle office.
- Jerry Nelson as a man in the park alongside his daughter Christine Nelson playing the man's daughter.
- Richard Hunt as a cab driver with Kathryn Mullen appearing as a taxi passenger.
Also, Jim Henson's son Brian appears riding a tricycle that pulls a line of Muppets on bicycles.
Cameo guest stars
- John Cleese as Neville, a middle-aged British homeowner who lives with his wife Dorcas at 17 Highbrow Street. Cleese had previously guest-starred in a second-season episode of The Muppet Show.
- Peter Falk as a Man in Park (uncredited)
- Robert Morley as a British Gentleman by Pond
- Jack Warden as Mike Tarkenian, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Chronicle.
- Peter Ustinov as a Truck Driver who has his truck stolen by Miss Piggy. Ustinov had previously guest-starred in a first-season episode of The Muppet Show.
The film grossed $31.2 million domestically on a $14 million budget thus making it a box office success. It is the fourth highest grossing Muppet film behind The Muppets, The Muppet Movie, and Muppet Treasure Island.
The Great Muppet Caper has received generally positive reviews. The film holds a 79% approval rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6.4/10, based on 19 reviews. The site's consensus says "The Great Muppet Caper is overplotted and uneven, but the appealing presence of Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang ensure that this heist flick is always breezily watchable." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a two star rating (out of four) and concluded his review by saying that "the lack of a cutting edge hurts this movie. It's too nice, too routine, too predictable, and too safe."
The Great Muppet Caper was first released on Betamax and VHS in 1982 by 20th Century Fox Video. Jim Henson Video released the film on VHS and LaserDisc in 1993. It was later released on DVD by Sony Pictures on June 5, 2001 and subsequently on November 29, 2005 by Walt Disney Pictures as Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition. Oscar the Grouch is not one of the Muppets who are acquired to Disney because he is owned by Sesame Workshop.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The Great Muppet Caper on Blu-ray and DVD, alongside Muppet Treasure Island, on December 10, 2013.
In 1982, Joe Raposo was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "The First Time It Happens". This was the only one of the first three Muppet films not to be nominated for Best Music, Original Song Score.
In 1981, Miss Piggy won the Youth in Film Award for Best Young Musical Recording Artist for her performance of "The First Time It Happens", becoming the first, and only, non-human recipient in the history of the award.
The Great Muppet Caper: The Original Soundtrack contains all of the songs from the movie, as well as several portions of dialogue and background score. The album reached #66 on Billboard's Top LP's and Tapes chart in 1981.
- Track listing
All songs written and composed by Joe Raposo.Â
- Official site
- The Great Muppet Caper at the Internet Movie Database
- The Great Muppet Caper at the TCM Movie Database
- The Great Muppet Caper at Box Office Mojo
- The Great Muppet Caper at Rotten Tomatoes
- Muppet Movies Lyric Archive