The Delightful Weirdness of ‘The Great Muppet Caper’

2016 was a very, very bad year no matter how you slice it. In tough times, comedy is often a form of escape that people turn to when they need comforting. With that in mind, we asked our contributors to pick the one piece of comedy in any form that they turn to when they really need cheering up. We’ll be sharing their choices throughout the week in a package we’re calling “The Best Medicine.”

2016 has been a hard year. As someone who has struggled with depression for much of my life, I’ve had to develop habits and ways to cope. The result is that I have a short list of things to read and watch and listen to that help. One I came back to recently is The Great Muppet Caper. The 1981 film isn’t the best muppet movie — that would be 1979’s The Muppet Movie — but to my mind it’s the funniest and weirdest. From the opening credits, which feature Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo in a hot air balloon, to the bizarre and hilarious cameo by Peter Falk, to the fact that Charles Grodin and Diana Rigg play siblings (this is a movie where Kermit and Fozzie are twins, so it seems pretty normal), it’s just completely out there. There are songs by Joe Raposo, a cameo by John Cleese that only really made sense to me as an adult, and a plot involving models who moonlight as jewel thieves — it’s goofy fun. Which is not to say that there’s nothing serious. After The Happiness Hotel, every hostel I’ve ever stayed at seems luxurious by comparison, and postmodernism comes pretty easily after watching the Muppets repeatedly break the fourth wall.

This is a movie my brother and I quoted nonstop through childhood (“Are bears allowed in those fountains?” “What color are their hands now?” “Maybe we could jump part way?”) and even today it makes me laugh. Maybe because it might be about crime and danger, about the need to do what’s right even when it’s not easy — but that doesn’t mean that life isn’t fun and that what really matters is getting to do it with your friends.

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