The Muppet Movie / The Great Muppet Caper James Frawley / Jim Henson

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Kermit the Frog's arrival on the cultural landscape come some DVD reissues of Muppet classics and some not-so classics. The best of the bunch are the first two features: The Muppet Movie, which is uncommonly clever, self-referential and tons of fun; and The Great Muppet Caper, which uses its characters to full effect in telling an original story (as opposed to retelling the classics like The Wizard of Oz or Treasure Island, which has been the more current strategy). The original remains the must-see classic, a film that tells the story of Kermit's journey from swamp-bound frog to Hollywood superstar (including the climactic moment when Orson Welles tells studio bean-counters to "draw up the standard rich and famous contract" for Kermit and his compatriots). Its interweaving, self-referential plot may tweak the post-modern bone of overeducated college kids, but in the Muppet context, it's merely the recognition that children can distinguish the difference between what's real and what's storytelling, even as we accept Kermit and company as "real" and the movies as stories, something that's particularly up front in The Great Muppet Caper. As the film opens, Kermit addresses the audience as if introducing a school production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat; the tale, part Columbo, part slapstick Sherlock Holmes and all Muppets, unfolds thereafter. Both films continue to delight even more than 25 years later, but the 50th Anniversary cash grab excuse is lame at best. Only two special features grace these two discs, and they are both pathetic, punch line-oriented "profiles" of Kermit and Miss Piggy that neither do their extensive careers nor their comedic chops justice. These are valuable only if you don't already own these two comedy classics; it's disappointing given the deluxe treatment recently afforded The Muppet Show's first season DVD release. (Disney/Buena Vista)