The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
December 8, 2020 6:35 PM - Subscribe

When the Muppets graduate from Danhurst College, they take their song-filled senior revue to New York City, only to learn that it isn't easy to find a producer who's willing to back a show starring a frog and a pig. Of course, Kermit the Frog and his friends won't take no for an answer, and they set up quarters in the lockers at the bus station and launch a search for someone who will put them on a Broadway stage.

The Muppets Take Manhattan opened on July 13, 1984 to mostly positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 83% of 23 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.9 out of 10. The site's consensus stated that "if it's not quite as sharp as The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan is still a smart, delightfully old-fashioned tale that follows the formula established by the first two movies -- a madcap adventure assisted by a huge group of human stars."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a three-star rating (out of four) stating in his review that "the plot of [the] movie has been seen before." However, Ebert went on to say that just about everything in the film was enjoyable and that Kermit finally solves his long-lasting identity crisis. In his 2009 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film a three-star rating (out of four) as well citing that the film is an "enjoyable outing with bouncy songs, [with a] nice use of N.Y.C. locations."

The film features cameos by Frances Bergen, Art Carney, James Coco, Dabney Coleman, Elliott Gould, Gregory Hines, Mayor Edward I. Koch, John Landis, Linda Lavin, David Lazer, Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers, Brooke Shields, and Vincent Sardi Jr., and was the last Muppet movie to be made before the deaths of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt.
posted by orange swan (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In an interview, Juliana Donald (Jenny) recalled how filming of the jogging scene in the park was temporarily delayed by a camera problem. A little boy passing by approached and started talking to Kermit the Frog, oblivious to Jim Henson operating him. Despite the surrounding commotion of technicians trying to fix the camera issue, Jim started interacting with the boy. Moments later, Jim found himself doing an impromptu performance with Kermit for an entire group of children who had gathered around to watch.

The portrait of Kermit the Frog in his producer's disguise has become a permanent fixture at the real Sardi's, and can be seen in other movies set there.

As with The Muppet Movie (1979), this can be read as an allegory of Jim Henson's career. Like his creator, Kermit gains local popularity performing during his college years, decides to try his luck in New York City, struggles, takes an unlikely detour into the world of advertising, then gets his big break.

The minister in the wedding scene is an actual minister.

[Masterson Rat gazes at Brooke Shields.]
Brooke Shields: Is something wrong?
Masterson Rat: Do you believe in interspecies dating?
Brooke Shields: Well, I've dated some rats before, if that's what you mean.
[Masterson faints]

Janice: [not realizing that everyone else has stopped talking] ...So I told him "Listen, buddy, I don't take my clothes off for anybody, even if it IS artistic".

Piggy's abuse and aggressive pursuit of Kermit make me cringe. In this movie she spies on Kermit (at least she gets called out for it), assaults him after he insults her, then she tricks him into marrying her, which, yikes.
posted by orange swan at 10:21 PM on December 8, 2020 [9 favorites]

Truly one of the all time best movies. I frequently recite "Something from the grill, Jill?" "No, meat makes me ill, Gil" for no reason at all.
posted by latkes at 8:25 AM on December 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

A little boy passing by approached and started talking to Kermit the Frog, oblivious to Jim Henson operating him.

This is not just a kid thing. I saw Steve Whitmire at Dragoncon one year, and he brought Kermit out for the Q&A. I swear to god something in the human brain short-circuits in the presence of Muppets, because I could SEE Whitmire puppeteering and I was still like ‘oh my god! that’s Kermit!! I know him!!!’

(I got to ask a question, too. apparently kermit wasn’t really interested in adapting more works of classic literature, preferring to focus on original work, but I did tell him I thought he’d make a great Jean Valjean.)
posted by nonasuch at 9:27 AM on December 9, 2020 [12 favorites]

"The plot of your movie has been seen before. I doubt if that will come as news to you. 'The Muppets Take Manhattan' is yet another retread of the reliable old formula in which somebody says 'Hey, gang! Our senior class musical show is so good, I'll bet we could be stars on Broadway!'"

I'm mystified by this remark. Are there really so many movies about a gang of college students that try to take their senior musical to broadway? Is this an example of parody outliving all trace of the subject it's parodying? I suppose it's such a light, benign basis for a movie that no examples of such would ever end up on modern lists of theater-related movies.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:51 PM on December 9, 2020

The Muppets Go To Regionals!

I think it's a playful sentence in a loving review. I also think that by 1984 Roger Ebert had seen his fair share of Plucky Youngster Moves to The Big City to Make it Big Time plotlines.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:43 PM on December 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's a nod to the several Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movie musicals that were roughly the same plot, such as Babes on Broadway.
posted by briank at 4:41 PM on December 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

Interesting. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's OK to make a new muppet version of a plot that was popular circa 40 years ago. Which, incidentally, means we're about due for yet another iteration, unless Sing counts?

And yes, I assumed Ebert was talking about the generic "plucky young person goes to make it big in the big city" plotline, but he's very specific about it being college graduates bringing their senior musical to broadway, which is what I found weird.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:08 PM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

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