Sunday, September 7, 2014

Family Movie Night: The Muppets Take Manhattan

Title: The Muppets Take Manhattan
Director: Frank Oz
Original Release: 1984
Choice: Purple Penguin's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia

I am in love with all things Muppet.  Therefore, while I am willing to admit this is the weakest of the three original Muppet movies, my devotion to the franchise guarantees a rating of at least a 4.  I don't think I'd seen the film since it was in theaters 30 years ago.



Kermit and his pals have just graduated from college.  Their play was a huge hit on campus and they're keen to take it to Broadway.  The early going is rough so the gang splits up for adventures around the country, not wanting Kermit to feel responsible for them.  Our favorite frog is disappointed but stays in New York, eternally hopeful of finding a producer for the show.  Along the way, we get the usual parade of celebrity cameos: Liza Minnelli, Gregory Hines, Dabney Coleman, Art Carney, Linda Lavin, Brooke Shields, Elliott Gould, Mayor Ed Koch and, particularly fitting this week, Joan Rivers.

This is definitely a movie for the faithful.  I doubt anyone would say this was what turned them on to the Muppets.  The writing is average and the human acting uninspired.  There are moments of magic here and there.  The Swedish Chef running a movie theater concession stand is the highlight for me.  One scene with the Muppet principals as babies spawned an animated series - The Muppet Babies - that ran on Saturday mornings for seven years afterward.  If you only know the felted gang from their most recent films and are eager to explore the vintage material, much better to start with 1979's The Muppet Movie or, even better, the old TV shows from the '70s.

34 comments:

  1. "The felted gang," I love that line.

    One thing I always appreciate about the Muppets is that fact that you can watch it with kids and it is entertaining! A good deal of the fun is sort of an "inside joke" format for adults - I doubt kids understand some of the implications, but that's great! It's good and it's clean.

    If you've ever gotten caught in the same room with a kid who wants to watch Teletubbies, you'll know exactly what I mean (bring a book).

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    1. Believe me, I've watched more than enough children's TV with my daughter to know exactly what you mean.

      Henson had a simple and beautiful philosophy: you don't condescend to children. They're intelligent people and they deserve intelligent entertainment.

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  2. I don't remember feeling this one was inferior but, then, it's been a long time since I've seen it.

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    1. For me, it doesn't have quite the same magic spark as the other two. Mind you, I'd still rather watch a sub-par Muppet movie than most alternatives.

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  3. I bought it a while back and it's my son's first exposure to the Muppets. He loves it and so do I. It's not the best film, but all the cameos make it awesome for adults and kids love all the Muppets.

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    1. The cameos are great. It was fun explaining to our daughter who some of them were.

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  4. It's been years since I've seen it. Not one of the better ones, but it did give us Rizzo the Rat. (Who was awesome in the next Muppet movie, Muppet Christmas Carol.)

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    1. Rizzo! I forgot to mention Rizzo! Good call, Alex.

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  5. The Great Muppet Caper is my favorite of the originals! (The one with Charles Grodin.)

    I haven't watched Manhattan in so long that I forgot Linda Lavin had a cameo. I love her!

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    1. To me, the success of a Muppet movie is entirely dependent upon the human cast. You know the puppets are going to hold up their end (Who even remembers most of the the time that they're puppets?). Caper works largely because of Grodin. His buy-in is total. Same with Michael Caine in Christmas Carol. The human cast of Manhattan is less inspiring.

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  6. So would you call yourself a Hipster Muppet?
    You liked them before they were cool again.
    I'm with you, anything Muppet rocks, including Sesame Street.

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    1. To be honest David, they might be the closest thing I have to a religion.

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  7. We are huge fans.
    Maybe not the best movie, but considering what is out there much of the time I will take it.
    We loved The Muppets and watched the TV show. Even had all the shows on tape. Animal was one of our favorites.
    When oldest son was little he loved the "Follow That Bird" movie with Big Bird and lots of Muppets.
    Thanks for all the great memories flooding back.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I agree with you. Even the lesser Muppet films are still better than most of what's out there.

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  8. I remember seeing that in the theater when I was a kid. I didn't recognize a lot of the actors at that age, but I knew Brooke Shields, Joan Rivers, and Linda Lavin (from "Alice").

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    1. I was surprised I recognized Art Carney, a genuine American treasure, in my opinion, but looking very different from his days on The Honeymooners.

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  9. My children and I loved this movie when it came out. My favorite Muppets are Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker (meep meep meep).

    Love,
    Janie

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  10. I have heard only great reviews about this film. I have wanted to see it only never got around to it.

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    1. If you ever do get around to seeing it, let me know what you think.

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  11. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen this one - not sure I've seen any of the originals, actually. I know I saw the show, but not all of it.

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    1. The old show is really the heart of it all.

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  12. I saw it in theaters way back when, and then in countless reruns on HBO. I think it's my third fave. I liked The Great Muppet Caper better.
    Veronica

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    1. I think the original is my favorite, especially for the songs. Christmas Carol is probably next for me.

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  13. The Swedish Chef serving popcorn...!

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  14. Replies
    1. Like I said, it's a movie for the converted. I'm not sure how it would play for one not already a fan.

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  15. 30 years ago our children were excited when the Muppets made another movie. Basically, as long as those Muppets were running around and doing Muppet stuff, we were all happy.

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  16. I love all things Muppets, but can't remember if I saw this. I'm sure I have.

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    1. I must confess I'd remembered absolutely nothing about the story from my first viewing decades ago. Even my memory of the Muppet babies scene wasn't quite right.

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  17. I love all things Muppets too. This is good and honest review even with our biases. What's not to love about the Muppets.

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