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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> March 2002 >> The Muppets Take Manhattan

The Muppets Take Manhattan

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
March 2002
IMDB Name:
Muppets Take Manhattan, The (1984)
Frank Oz
comedy, musical
MPAA Rating:

Frog and Pig

I think I finally understand the key to the immense appeal of the Muppets, and it is Miss Piggy who showed me the way. She embodies some of the worst of humanity's traits, with heavy doses of jealousy and short-temperedness leading the list. Seeing her frog hug another woman is enough to send her into a very noisy tantrum, often involving wanton acts of destruction. Even better, though, is Kermit's obvious hesitation when it comes to settling down with an obsessed pig. It's a telling moment when Piggy swaps in a real minister on the opening night of the show, and Kermit has to think for a few seconds before grudgingly singing "I do". There is also a delicious scene when Kermit, suffering from amnesia, rattles off a series of one-liners about the humor inherent in a frog-pig coupling. In having characters who are not constantly smiles and sunshine at the core of the cast, the Muppet movies resemble the Warner Brothers' great Looney Tunes, which always had mischevious protagonists. This subversive element makes the Muppets enjoyable long past childhood. And in a forehead-slapping moment, it just occurred to me why Piggy would chase Kermit so persistently: he might turn into a prince!

Muppets Take Manhattan is an interesting departure from the first two Muppet films: The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper. The first two were packed with asides to the audience, where the third has none. This one is more consciously meant as a standalone story, even though it contains a broadway show within the film. Perhaps the writers decided that two levels were plenty. MTM is also lacking in great acting from most of the non-cameo human performers. Louis Zorich is definitely fun as Pete, but Juliana Donald and Lonny Price are always outacted by pieces of felt. The cameo bits are terrific, though, with this film including appearances by Dabney Coleman, Liza Minnelli, Gregory Hines, and a not-yet-famous Gates McFadden making her cinematic debut. Hines gets a particularly choice scene, mediating an important argument in Kermit and Piggy's relationship.

Muppets Take Manhattan's biggest set piece is the broadway show that brings all of the characters together. It's a dazzling display of over a hundred Muppets on screen at a time. I imagine the filming took days, but the master shot of the church somehow has a huge cast singing and swaying together. Speaking of the show, lyricist Jeffrey Moss and composer Ralph Burns crafted a wonderful medley for Manhattan Melodies (a Looney Tunes reference?). I dare say the "He Makes Me Happy" section would be sung at more weddings if brides were able to get past the fact that they first heard it sung by a pig.

Copyright 2002 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.