Sony // 2002 // 82 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 25th, 2002
His true story, warts and all.
For over 25 years we've watched him wisecrack with Miss Piggy, quarrel with Gonzo, and sling puns and jokes with Fozzy Bear. But do we truly know who Kermit The Frog really is? Or where he came from? Kermit's Swamp Years finally shows the real story behind everyone's favorite amphibious friend! Witness what life was like for Kermit when he was just a tadpole! Follow along as we meet the Goggles and Croaker, two of Kermit's buddies from the swamp. Life for these three is an adventure, but when they wander out from the safety of their marshland home, Goggles is caught by a pet store owner and sold to an unscrupulous high school science teacher for a higher education (AKA frog dissection!!). Now it's up to Kermit and Croaker to save Goggles before he ends up floating in formaldehyde! Come along and revisit Kermit's fun and fancy free childhood with Kermit's Swamp Years!
Kermit's Swamp Years wasn't my introduction to Jim Henson's Muppets by any means, though it has been quite a while since I've seen any of these funny felt-laced puppets on TV. It was enjoyable to revisit Kermit (previously voiced by creator Henson, now by Steve Whitmire) and his mild, John Denver-like sense of fun. One of the great things about The Muppets is that they were never meant solely for children -- much like their raunchier counterparts The Simpsons, The Muppets always had gags for tykes and their parents alike. Kermit's Swamp Years, a straight-to-video feature, is filled with lots of great fun for children, and lots of sly in-jokes for parents. There's a charming reference to Kermit's creation when he runs into a young Jim Henson, and the character Goggles provides the film with some of its heartiest laughs ("All night long I had terrible dreams," Goggles reminisces, "I was stepped on by rubber boots. I was grabbed by human claws, and I was dipped in breadcrumbs and eggs. Actually, the eggs felt quite soothing on my buttocks"). If the plot seems a bit thin, that's okay -- when you're dealing with the historical youth of an arts 'n' crafts frog, things don't need to get overly complicated. While the film is enjoyable, things sometimes get a bit tedious for the adults (some exposition with humans tends to lag). Still, I'd rather sit through six hours worth of Kermit and his friends witty banter than ten minutes of The Wiggles' obnoxious sing-a-longs. Aside of the obvious absence of Miss Piggy, Animal and other Muppet favorites, Kermit's Swamp Years is a cute romp in the swamp for the whole family. This feature is best when complimented by a few of the old The Muppet Show episodes from the 1970s and '80s.
Kermit's Swamp Years is presented in both the parent friendly 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen version as well as the child approved 1.33:1 full frame version. The transfer on this disc is nearly spotless with bright colors (especially the greens!) and solid black levels. The only imperfection I spotted was a small amount of edge enhancement that wasn't intrusive to the viewing. Overall, this picture should please fans. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround in French, English, Portuguese, and Spanish. This is a very suitable sound mix that features a few directional sounds in both the front and rear speakers. Though the track isn't overly aggressive, it does serve the film well with crystal clear dialogue, music and effects. Also included on this disc are English, Chinese, Thai, and Korean subtitles.
Columbia has really put fourth some effort to include some extremely entertaining extra features on this disc. To start with there is a screen-specific commentary track by Kermit and Horace the Horsefly. When Kermit and Horace are talking (which is sometimes rare), their comments are really entertaining. However, there are a few too many gaps of silence in this track to keep kids interested. An "On the Set Interview" with Kermit is full of laughs, including watching Kermit being transformed into a young version of himself by the special effects department. This featurette also shows the ever-chatty Kermit answering questions about his golden days and subsequent showbiz career. Next up is a behind-the-scenes featurette hosted by an armadillo (!) featuring interviews with the cast, writer, and crew, along with footage from the production (if your kids are disturbed by seeing their favorite Muppets with human hands up their rears, they should skip this supplement). Finally, there is a humorous blooper reel of Kermit and his friends flubbing their lines, and a batch of theatrical trailers for other Columbia family films.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Screen Specific Commentary by Kermit the Frog and Horace the Horsefly
* Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
* On The Set with Kermit the Frog
* Bonus Theatrical Trailers