The Muppets Take Manhattan as everyone’s favorite felt performers look to break a leg on Broadway and learn it is not that easy.
It is a complete coincidence that I am covering the film as it also arrives today on 4K Ultra HD. I rewatched the film last week after borrowing it from the public library. It is surprisingly not available through a streaming service, only to buy or rent. It is not on Disney+ because Sony controls the rights. My main reason for rewatching the film is the fact that it features a scene at the Empire State Building. It is a scene where Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) is down but the scene serves a purpose in motivating him to stay and push forward:
“My friends are all gone. Well, I’m gonna get them back. I’m gonna get them back. Because the show’s not dead as long as I believe in it. And I’m gonna sell that show. And we’re all gonna be on Broadway. You hear me, New York? We’re gonna be on Broadway. Because I’m not giving up. I’m still here and I’m staying. You hear that, New York? I’m staying here! The frog is staying!”
Following college, Kermit and company head to New York City in hopes of launching Manhattan Melodies on Broadway. Launching a musical is not as easy as it seems and they learn this the hard way. After the Muppets get their hands on a list of producers and think it looks promising, police officers quickly arrest producer Martin Price (Dabney Coleman) for being a con artist. Eventually, they start losing hope in getting to Broadway and go their separate ways. Kermit stays in Manhattan as does Miss Piggy (Frank Oz), not that Kermit knows it. Our favorite frog gets a job at Pete’s Diner, where Pete (Louis Zorich), Jenny (Juliana Donald), Rizzo the Rat (Steve Whitmire), and some other rats also assist Kermit in making the show a hit.
Kermit gets a letter from producer Bernard Crawford (Art Carney), only to learn that it was written by Bernard’s son, Ronnie (Lonny Price). His excitement leads him to rush back to the diner but ends up being hit by a car. The next thing we know, Kermit ends up in the hospital with amnesia. In trying to find a job, Kermit meets a trio of frogs at an advertising agency. All the while, Kermit’s fellow Muppets are looking for him as the show gets closer to opening night. It is completely coincidental that the frogs all end up at Pete’s Diner. Kermit doesn’t recognize them even though they know him and take him to the Biltmore Theatre.
The closing scenes include characters from The Muppets, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock as Kermit and Miss Piggy tie the knot. It’s certainly a lovely way to include the many characters from across the Jim Henson universe.
Next to the titular characters, the cameos are always a fun part of watching the films. Not to say anything negative about the film’s choices but there’s a universe where Dustin Hoffman plays a Robert Evans-esque producer. According to David Misch, he decided to drop out because the cameo might have been seen as being offensive. Funny enough, Hoffman would portray an Evans-esque producer over a decade later in Wag the Dog. In the same interview, Misch also talks about some of the missed opportunities. Kermit’s Empire State Building scene would have been so much funnier if it ended with some shouting “Shut up, we’re trying to sleep!” in the distance. Instead, we see Miss Piggy looking up at the building.
In terms of Oscars, the film did earn a nomination for Jeff Moss’s score. Interestingly enough, there has never been a release of the soundtrack. Only a few songs but that’s about it.
Like many of my friends and family, I’ve been struggling over the past two weeks. Comedies have a way of cheering us up, if only for a little but of time. It’s certainly easier for non-critic friends who do not write about TV/Film for a living. Aside from a phone call, the film was able to keep my focus just long enough. This is really all anyone can ask for. Otherwise, it is the constant watching news and refreshing for updates every few minutes. But anyway, you can never go wrong with any of the Muppet movies, be it The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppets, etc.
The Muppets Take Manhattan sticks to the working formula in earlier films and is an all-around enjoyable time.
DIRECTOR: Frank Oz
SCREENWRITERS: Frank Oz and Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses
CAST: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, Juliana Donald, Lonny Price, Louis Zorich
CAMEO GUEST STARS: Art Carney, James Coco, Dabney Coleman, Gregory Hines, Linda Lavin, Joan Rivers