I have been a fan of the Muppets for years, both The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, and I remember this being the first one of their theatrical movies that I saw in the theaters. Looking back as a kid, I remember some of the jokes kind of going over my head but still laughing at the various antics of the Muppets. I was also happy to see all of the characters from Sesame Street in this movie as usually Kermit is the only member of the Muppets to regularly appear on Sesame Street. So let’s go ahead and jump right into today’s movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan.
The plot: The Muppets have all graduated from college and are entertaining the rest of their class by performing their theatrical number, Manhattan Melodies. As Kermit gives a farewell speech to the audience, the rest of the Muppets decide to try and take their act to Broadway. When they talk to Kermit about it, he seems hesitant as he feels their show is missing something but at the risk of having to say goodbye to all of his friends, he agrees. The Muppets arrive in Manhattan and go to see Martin Price about producing their show. Martin agrees and wants $300 a piece from the Muppets in order to produce it but the police arrive and Martin is revealed to be a con artist called Murray Plotsky, who takes Gonzo and Camilla the Chicken hostage to try and avoid being arrested. Animal attacks Murray and helps prevent his escape long enough for the police to arrest him. The Muppets try pitching their show to other producers and are constantly told no, causing them to lose hope. Running low on money and with tempers starting to flair, the Muppets wonder what they should do next and when the ask Kermit what to do, he ends up yelling at them. They head to a diner where Rizzo the Rat works as a waiter and while Kermit goes to get them some food, the others all decide that they are being a burden on Kermit and feel they should leave. Kermit speaks with Pete, the diner’s owner, and his daughter Jenny before returning to the table, where the others tell him that they got job offers out of town. As the others all leave, Kermit heads to the Empire State Building and, while looking out over the city, shouts out that he is staying and will get his friends back while down below, Miss Piggy is shown to have stayed behind to look after Kermit. Heading back to Pete’s diner, Kermit gets a job as a dishwasher and then has Jenny, who is trying to get into fashion school, make him a costume to wear. Pretending to be a big shot producer, Kermit walks into a producers office and touts the greatness of the script before handing it to the producer and leaving, but the producer immediately throws the script in the trash. When Kermit leaves the building, he meets up with Jenny in the park across the street and she hugs him, causing Piggy, who was following Kermit, to begin beating on a metal drum with a pipe. Piggy returns to her job as a make up salesperson but when she is still in a bad mood, her coworker tries to cheer her up but they both end up getting fired. While at the diner, Kermit receives some postcards from Scooter, Fozzie, and Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem telling him how they are doing but Kermit is sad that he hasn’t heard from Gonze, Rowlf or Piggy. Jenny comforts him, which is seen by Piggy in her apartment across the street, and Kermit gets Jenny, Rizzo, and the other rats to help him. Donning a fake mustache and a suit, Kermit heads into Sardi’s restaurant and replaces the picture of Liza Minnelli with one of himself that Jenny drew. Then Rizzo and the other rats head underneath the other tables and begin whispering about Kermit being a big producer and Manhattan Melodies is going to be a big hit, causing the other patrons to start whispering about it but Liza Minnelli shows up and asks Vincent Sardi if she did something to cause her picture to be replaced, just as Rizzo and the other rats attempt to get some of the food, causing them all to be thrown out. Kermit and Jenny are in Central Park trying to figure out what Kermit should do next. Piggy is following them but when her purse is stolen, she chases after the crook, causing Kermit to notice her. After getting her purse back, Kermit and Piggy start arguing but manage to calm down and talk some more and as they go for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, Piggy dreams about what would have happened if they had been friends when they were kids. Piggy starts working as a waitress in the diner when they receive postcards from Gonzo and Rowlf, as well as a letter from Bernard Crawford, a famous producer who wants to meet with Kermit about his show. Kermit goes to Bernard’s office and meets Ronnie, Bernard’s son, who wrote the letter and tells Kermit he wants to produce the show. Ronnie speaks with his father, who expresses some doubts but agrees to honor his promise to let Ronnie produce a show. Kermit calls the diner to tell Piggy and Jenny the news then heads back to start writing to everyone but he is hit by a taxi cab. Piggy is worried when Kermit doesn’t come back to the diner and Ronnie shows up saying that the show opens in two weeks so Jenny, Ronnie, and Piggy go looking for Kermit while Pete writes to the other Muppets to tell them about the show. Meanwhile, Kermit is in the hospital but suffering from amnesia and after getting discharged, he ends up calling himself Phillip Phil and getting a job with an ad agency. The rest of the Muppets return to the city and when they learn that Kermit is missing, they help to look for him but have no luck. On the day that the show is scheduled to open, Jenny, Ronnie, and the Muppets are despairing on what to do when Kermit and the other frogs from the ad agency walk into the diner. When the Muppets hear Kermit tapping out “Together Again” on the water glasses, they all celebrate but Kermit has no idea who they all are. Piggy and the others grab Kermit and take him to the theater to try and get his memory back but nothing seems to work until Kermit starts laughing at Piggy’s claim that they were supposed to be having kids, causing Piggy to punch him. Kermit regains his memory and the Muppets head out to start the show, with Kermit inviting all of the other frogs, bears, dogs, and other friends of the Muppets to help be part of the show. The show goes off without a hitch and ends with Kermit and Piggy getting married, but instead of a staged wedding where Gonzo plays the minister, Piggy has a real minister brought in so that they can really get married and after Kermit and Piggy say I do, the Muppets, along with characters from Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, all celebrate as the two kiss.
The Muppets Take Manhattan was well received by the critics, earning an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is 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.” This movie was the first movie directed by Frank Oz (as he had co-directed The Dark Crystal with Jim Henson) and aside from the wedding, is most famous for introducing the Muppet Babies, which led to it’s own cartoon series that fall. The movie was a success in theaters as it made over $25 million off an $8 million budget, but made less than either of the previous movies.
I think just because of the nostalgia that this has always been one of my favorite Muppet movies. The acting was pretty good, with the various cameos adding a lot of humor to the movie, especially Gregory Hines, Joan Rivers, and Liza Minnelli. The story was really good and actually didn’t have many sub plots to take away from the main story. Of course, the ending is something that people have been expecting for close to a decade and I liked how Kermit was nervous about doing it for real during the show but went through with it. The puppet work was just as good as the others and there were a lot of great interactions between the various people and Muppets. A great movie to watch no matter how old you are.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5