- Movie Rating -

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

| July 13, 1984

By this point, my brain as given up trying to work out how the Muppets work on a technical level.  I am sure that someone could easily sit there and tell me how these characters are made and operated; the holes dug in the floor for the performers, all that.  I don’t care.  I’ve been watching the Muppets for so long that, for me, part of the magic is in their personalities.  It’s one thing to be a puppeteer, but it is quiet another to really create a memorable character that seems alive.

When The Muppets Take Manhattan was over I had the startling realization that throughout the film’s entire running time, I had never once thought about the craft that was involved.  I only thought of The Muppets.  When Miss Piggy takes a job selling perfume next to Joan Rivers, it just occurred to me that Joan and Piggy were talking to each other.  Never once did I think of Frank Oz tucked under the counter.

That’s par for the experience.  A lot of time and attention went into this movie.  A lot of comedy and characterization were put to use in creating something that is not only magical, but also funny.  Stop, for a second, and consider how difficult it is to create both in the same scene.

The plot is largely mounted on the romance between Kermit and Piggy.  She’s always been at the center of winning his heart and he’s always been distracted by making it big in show business.  The now-or-never proposal takes some time to get there, but for now it’s back to the frog’s pursuit of his dream.  As the movie opens, the gang has just graduated from college and travel to Manhattan to find someone who will produce their musical “Manhattan Melodies.”  The dream fails and the gang splits up to look for other opportunities.  Rowlf goes to work at a vet clinic.  Piggy goes to work at a hotel.  Kermit works in a restaurant.  And Fozzy goes into the woods to hibernate (“How do they do it?” the bear asks looking around at all of his brothers snoring away.)

The functioning plot doesn’t really matter but it takes a fun detour that I didn’t see coming involving Kermit losing his memory.  Along the way there is the usual gaggle of guest stars including Liza Minnelli, Art Carney, James Coco, Dabney Coleman, Gregory Hines, Linda Lavin, Elliott Gould, Ed Koch, John Landis and Brook Shields.  The joy this time is that the guest stars are the background.  They pop up here and there unlike in The Great Muppet Caper in which they were in the foreground and the Muppets had to back them up.  This time Henson and his crew got it right and this is a great movie in the Muppet tradition.  It gets them out of the theater confines of their TV show and really tries to expand their experience.  This is a fun movie, a funny movie, a charming movie, but you knew that.  It takes a lot of time and talent to create a movie like this and it pays off.  I’m thinking about that joke with Fozzy trying to hibernate, not how it was made.  That’s an achievement.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy