August 03, 1981 12:00 PM

Here’s that rare take-the-kids movie that doesn’t leave adults in a stupor. It also improves on the 1979 Muppet Movie, whose director, James Frawley, didn’t trust Jim Henson’s TV creations to make the move to the big screen without a bolstering army of human guest stars. This time, with Henson himself at the helm, star cameos are kept to a minimum. The Great Muppet Caper also displays a flair for sassy one-liners and no-strings-attached physical comedy that keeps the wholesome proceedings from sagging into tedium. What other love story between a man and a pig could snag a G rating? The lucky fellow is Charles Grodin, who plays the playboy brother of fashion designer Diana Rigg. Tired of long-legged models with aquiline noses, Grodin falls hilariously for Miss Piggy’s porky pulchritude and snouty sensuality. Kermit finally wins her back by exposing Grodin as a jewel thief, but not before Miss P has set hearts aflame with an Esther Williams water ballet and a madcap tap dance—all to Joe Raposo’s catchy score. Kermit is a special joy, gasping at a swank London supper club menu: “The roast beef in this place costs as much as an Oldsmobile.” But all the Muppets have their moments, from befuddled Fozzie Bear to some dancing rats. This is a troupe of performers with heart, even if it is made of felt. (G)

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