(1984) director Frank Oz
viewed: o6/19/2011 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA
Ah, the Muppets. I was recalling to the kids how ridiculously funny I found the original The Muppet Movie in 1979, when I was 10 years old. I remember laughing until tears came out. And I had been a big fan of The Muppet Show itself. When I saw that The Muppets Take Manhattan was playing at the Castro Theatre, I thought it would be a cool one to see. Oddly, it was playing as part of the Frameline Film Festival, the LGBT film festival, though I didn’t really get the connection. No matter.
I actually had seen some portion of this movie on cable back in the 1980’s, much later than its original release. As much as I loved the original The Muppet Movie, I don’t think I ever saw another of the films in the cinema. But I did recall thinking that there were some really funny parts, in particular, when Kermit loses his memory and winds up in a Madison Avenue advertising agency with a trio of bland, average, imagination-challenged frogs, who think he’s a genius when he suggests advertising straightforwardly, “Use X Soap. It gets you clean.” And sales go through the roof.
Really, that’s kind of how it goes in this film, eternally cheerful, wistful and fun, with spurts of quite amusing moments. Not exactly a laugh riot or a pure classic, but a charming and joyful adventure with the original voice cast of the Muppets (this was the final film produced before Jim Henson’s untimely death).
The film opens was the Muppets are putting on a college revue as they graduate from university. Their show, “Manhattan Melodies” to Manhattan, to Broadway. While the whole gang is on-board, they are true rubes in the city, not at all ready for the realities of the business and when their show fails to get picked up, they split up and head their separate ways.
A number of celebrity cameos, including Art Carney, Elliot Gould, Gregory Hines, Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers, Dabney Coleman and a spate of others add to the fun, but also offers a glimpse into the time that has passed since this film. A lot of them are no longer with us.
The kids had seen it before, and while they did seem to enjoy it, it didn’t make a particular impression. Much of the children in the audience were of a younger set.
The film’s biggest crime is that it introduced “the Muppet Babies”, which is not such a bad sequence in itself, but rather that it launched this series of nauseatingly cutesy “baby” versions of popular characters, something that cloyed the hell out of cartoondom in the late 1980’s.