The Muppets, for many of us, are like a sixth-grade best friend. We once shared sleepovers and secrets, and there was a point when we couldn’t imagine life without them. But then middle school happened, then high school, then adulthood. So, maybe it’s been awhile since we last connected. With the arrival of “The Muppets” (out Wednesday and starring Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and big-time Muppet fan Jason Segel) comes a chance to see old friends again. It’s the Muppet gang’s first feature film in more than a decade, so if you’d like to brush up before the reunion, here are the best places to start.
“The Muppet Movie”
There are many reasons to revisit the first Muppet flick, especially if the last time you saw it was during its theatrical release in 1979. First, you can try to recapture the awe you felt as a kid when you saw Kermit and friends riding bikes (this was way, way before CGI). Second, you can hear all the song lyrics you probably messed up the first time around. (It’s tough for a kid to figure out the line, “send someone to fetch us/we’re in Saskatchewan,” from “Moving Right Along.”) And third, the movie’s just silly and lovable and the best of what the Muppets can be, with a little bit of dark humor (the plot centers on a fast-food frog-leg magnate who wants to kill Kermit).
“The Muppet Show”
If you’re going to judge a show solely on the basis of its guest stars, then “The Muppet Show” is the greatest show in the history of television. Special guests included Joel Grey, Lena Horne, Candice Bergen, Ben Vereen, Vincent Price, Ethel Merman and Twiggy. And that was just the first season — eventually, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Rudolf Nureyev, Elton John, Peter Sellers, John Cleese, Kris Kristofferson, Alice Cooper, Sylvester Stallone, Liberace, Diana Ross and Johnny Cash would make appearances. Also, this is where you first heard that “Mahna Mahna” song. (Seasons 1-3 are available on DVD.)
“The Great Muppet Caper”
In this 1981 follow-up to “The Muppet Movie,” Fozzie and Kermit travel to London to interview a fashion designer (Diana Rigg) whose jewels were stolen. What the film lacks in spirit it makes up for in wordplay (the most coveted jewel is “The Baseball Diamond”). You also get to see Miss Piggy do an Esther Williams-style synchronized swimming routine, if that’s your thing.
“The Muppets Take Manhattan”
In this 1984 feature, the Muppets try to take their act to Broadway, but financial problems, con men and Kermit’s amnesia after a conk on the head get in the way. The film is crazily packed with cameos (Brooke Shields! Liza Minnelli! Gregory Hines!), and it ends with Kermit and Piggy’s wedding — in which you find the immortal, poetic line, “Because you share a love so big/I now pronounce you frog and pig.”