Muppet movies aren’t just about puppets crossed with marionettes. Where would any of the Muppet movies be without the human guest stars? Don’t think too hard or you might find out that they could just fine without blood, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Some actors seem better suited for dealing with Muppets than others while some actually rise to the occasion to turn in some of their most memorable performances in any movie. The following are one man’s opinion of the top human performances in Muppet movies. Make room for Amy Adams and Jason Segal if they turn out to be up to the level of these stars.
Steve Martin: “The Muppet Movie”
No Muppet movie has featured more human guest stars than the original. The single most memorable performance by a human in “The Muppet Movie” has simply got to be Steve Martin. Back before Steve Martin decided to go mainstream, he walked the razor’s edge of obnoxious and hilarious. As the uppity waiter who finds himself serving a pig and a frog in a fancy restaurant, Martin walks that edge beautifully. From the moment he turns around and says all that needs to be said about his character simply by saying “Yes?” to the way he backs up bowing and ironically being submissively nice, Steve Martin hits the target just right. No other human in a Muppet movie delivers the height of comedy the way Steve Martin does in his all too brief cameo.
Tim Curry: “Muppet Treasure Island”
The forgotten Muppet movie features Tim Curry delivering probably the second best overall human performance in a Muppet film. Not only is Tim Curry a terrific human presence, but he delivers what may well be the most memorable Long John Silver ever put on film. In that respect, he joins company with another human being who appears in a Muppet movie as you shall see if you continue reading.
Carol Kane: “The Muppet Movie”
Yean, sure, Carol Kane’s role in “The Muppet Movie” is small, but her presence is vital to one of the most memorable jokes in Muppet movie history. Every time someone says “Myth…myth” Kane appears from nowhere to say, “Yes?” Of such small touches are great comedy made from the Muppets.
Charles Grodin: “The Great Muppet Caper”
Grodin owns “The Great Muppet Caper.” In what is truly a rare case, the human actually manages to be the most memorable character in a Muppet movie. Too much plot perhaps gets in the way of the freestyle comedy of the Muppets. Grodin’s character possesses levels that consistently surprise.
Michael Caine: “A Muppet Christmas Carol”
Michael Caine has so far delivered the finest performance by a human in a Muppet movie, but what he does here is more than that. Michael Caine has two Oscars to his name, but neither of those performances nor any other matches the level of greatness he achieves in “A Muppet Christmas Carol.” But Caine’s performance rises even above being his best. Without question, Michael Caine delivers the finest Scrooge ever seen on the silver screen. This is the only performance in a Muppet movie that should have been nominated for Oscar. Perhaps Caine should even have won.