The Muppets Blu-ray Review
Disney has put together a solid enough set of (amusingly named) extra features for The Muppets, though there’s no doubt that more could have been done. The full list of what’s on offer looks like this:
- The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History) We Think
- Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of the Muppets
- Exploring Evil: The Full Tex Richman song
- A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read Through
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Spoof Trailers
- Audio commentary with Jason Segel, James Bobin, and (co-writer) Nicholas Stoller.
The first of these features, the Blooper reel, is presented in HD with a Dolby Digital mix. It runs to 8mins33secs, and contains a mix of genuine mistakes during filming, interview clips with various muppets, bits of discarded improvisation, and one or two clearly ‘deliberately made’ bloopers. It’s not as blindingly funny as you might hope, but there are enough yucks in there overall to warrant a watch.
The Making Of documentary isn’t actually as short as its jokey title had led us to fear. In fact, it runs to 15mins56secs, and is presented again in HD with a Dolby Digital soundtrack.
Don’t think this is just a collection of behind the scenes snippets, though. Instead it’s properly scripted with a narrator, specially created animations, specially written interviews, and even an extra muppet Monster character to guide you round the set. What’s more, pretty much all of this new content is hilarious – and noticeably more irreverent in tone than the main film humour. To give you a flavour of what to expect, here’s a cracking line from the plum-toned narrator: ‘Surprisingly more than 36% of crew positions on the film were filled by non-Jason Segel personnel.’
There are obviously a few short clips of the filming process, which are fascinating as always. But for the most part the strength of this excellent extra feature is its freshness. It’s like its own comedy TV episode, and although it flags a couple of minutes from the end, it’s definitely not to be missed.
Explaining Evil – the full Tex Richman song delivers an HD extended version of – surprise surprise – the Tex Richman song in the film. It’s vaguely interesting for a ‘childhood trauma’ sequence that adds an extra reason why the Richman character hates the muppets, but overall it outstays its welcome and it’s easy to see why it was trimmed down.
The Little Screen Test featurette is short at just 3mins19secs, and shows – in HD with a Pro-Logic audio mix – another specially written and filmed sequence featuring Walter turning up for a Script Read Through meeting. This is charming and funny while it lasts, but its ending feels abrupt and clumsy. It does, though, reveal some real comedy potential in putting the muppets in very mundane modern environments – potential that could be explored further in the upcoming sequel?
The deleted scenes section contains eight chopped sequences that can be played together in one go or selected individually – though disappointingly there are no explanations of why they were cut. An extended (1min53sec) version of Walter’s Nightmare kicks these scenes off, and shows more footage of lots more of the muppets coming out of the TV than you see in the theatrical cut. While it must have been quite an effort to stage this sequence, the extended scene does ultimately outstay its welcome, and cutting it was a wise move.
Next up is an extra verse for the opening Life’s A Happy Song performance. It only runs for 29secs, and features a more melancholy section sung by Walter. It adds a little to Walter’s character, perhaps, but definitely doesn’t sit well with the upbeat tone of the rest of the song.
A Hero In Hollywood, meanwhile, runs to 1min37secs and shows Walter, Gary and Mary arriving by Greyhound bus outside the Chinese Grauman Theatre. Which is, of course, surrounded by tourists, tramps and people dressed as Superman charging 10 bucks for a photo. It’s a nice parody of LA, and introduces us early to Walter’s whistling prowess, but the sequence ultimately feels like a diversion the film didn’t need to take.
The Credit Card Club deleted scene is a short 21sec sequence showing a crap advert made by the TV exec who is ultimately forced to put on the Muppet’s show. It’s incomprehensible, rubbish and a waste of 21 seconds. Well cut, then!
Muppets in Jail runs to 59secs, and shows all the Muppets in jail before being bailed out by Walter. It’s unclear at this stage where exactly this would have gone in the film, and feels clumsily executed. Plus it elevates Walter too high in the Muppets’ estimations too early, and would thus have detracted from his final performance in the Muppet’s telethon show.
Bowling for Beaker is the 6th deleted scene. This is just 33secs, and shows Gonzo’s bowling ball being remote controlled by Bunsen before it goes ‘off grid’ and starts chasing Beaker. It’s passably amusing, but nothing more.
The Strip Mall Awards deleted scene is much more substantial. It runs to 2min10secs, and features cameos by Ricky Gervais, no less, along with Billy Crystal. It shows a scam put on by the Muppets to persuade stars to appear in their Telethon by holding a fake Oscar ceremony. This is the best of the deleted scenes by far, with some genuine laugh out loud moments. Plus it explains the earlier deleted scene set in a jail.
However, you can’t help but think that it might have been a ‘star cameo’ too far had it been left in the final film – and it also perhaps diverts too much attention away from the Muppets themselves at a pivotal moment in the film.
Still, I’m glad it wasn’t me who had to ring the stars up to tell them they’d ended up on the cutting room floor!
The final deleted scene runs to 1min28secs and shows an extended version of the Telethon’s opening sequence – predominantly a few extra lines of dialogue from some of the Muppets discussing their reaction to finally ‘being back’. The extra content is OK, but was probably cut for slowing down the impetus that carries the show section of the film along.
The seven Theatrical spoof trailers up next are worth watching. As their name suggests, they present the Muppets movie in the style of other film genres, and are all very funny bar, perhaps, The Fuzzy Pack one. Even the two that were never actually released are well worth a look.
Last but not least on the extra features list is the audio commentary. How much you like this depends on what you want from a commentary. If you’re after all sorts of in-depth background on the practicalities of making the film, you’re mostly out of luck. If, though, you want 100 minutes of amusing banter that at times feels like a separate comedy show peppered with Muppets trivia, you’ll be very happy.
Personally we found the track to be great fun, with lots of laugh at loud moments – something you don’t tend to get with audio commentaries. The odd moments of insight into the film making process when they come are always interesting, too.
In fact, these latter moments made us think that it would have been cool if they could have managed two separate tracks – one for laughs featuring Segel and Stoller, and a separate film geek one featuring Bobin and, maybe, the production designer.
It’s perhaps a shame, too, that none of the muppets themselves appear on the commentary track. We suspect Miss Piggy in particular would have some very amusing things to contribute to a commentary. Oh well. Maybe they’ll sort this for the sequel when that comes out on Blu-ray…
The disc gets off to a fairly dull start with a static language choice menu. But thankfully the main menu for the disc is much better, featuring a ‘show bill’ set of options on the left laid over a video loop shot created especially for the Blu-ray featuring appearances and even a few spoken words from all of your favourite Muppets characters. Excellent.
The pop-up menus are fairly basic; just static versions of the ‘show bill’ graphic. But they get the job done cleanly while retaining the disc’s atmosphere.
Our biggest gripe with the presentation of The Muppets package is that you don’t get a free Digital Copy of the film. Disney does include digital copies with some of its children’s titles, so it’s really frustrating that you don’t get one with the Muppets. This sort of inconsistency with what is actually quite an important feature to many modern families doesn’t do Disney’s or even Blu-ray’s reputation any favours.
The Last Word
There’s a sense with The Muppets’ Blu-ray release that Disney still doesn’t fully realise just what a gem it’s got on its hands with this film. The transfer is good enough, and the extras are consistently entertaining and a cut above the norm for such things. But overall the package feels a touch limited for such a popular, even quite cultish release.
The film: 18/20
Picture quality: 16/20
Sound quality: 13/20
Extra features: 15/20
From an AV quality point of view, the obvious candidate here is the night-time street shot featuring the final dance routine of the film. Visually there’s loads of dancing, extras, extreme depth of field, and detail. There’s even quite a lot of contrast by the film’s usual standards, thanks to the combination of bright lighting with a night-time setting. Plus, of course, the soundstage gets as raucous as it ever will.
In terms of the film, though, we can describe our showstopper moment in three little words: Fozzie’s fart shoes…