Friday, December 23, 2022

The Muppets Take Manhattan

TCM ran The Muppets Take Manhattan a few months back, and I recorded it, never actually having seen it before. The Epix family of channels has it now, and tomorrow (Christmas Eve) at 1:15 PM would be a good time for a family to watch it.

The movie starts off with the ,uppets in college, which seems a bit odd considering that the TV show had them as backstage stage performers and then the first movie was if memory serves the back story of how they got famous. But then, I don't think there's supposed to be much continuity in these movies from one to the next anyway, other than the relationship between Kermit and Miss Piggy. Kermit has written the senior revue, Manhattan Melodies and all the muppets perform it for the human students who all love the revue. They graduate, and Kermit thinks it would be a good idea to try to make it in New York with this revue.

To be honest, the revue reminded me of one of the early musical numbers in 42nd Street, where the producer or one of the assistants tells the cast that the way they're performing one of the songs would be good... for 1905. Manhattan Melodies is something that would have fit right in in an earlier generation before someone like Andrew Lloyd Webber. But don't that let stop Kermit and his friends.

What does stop them is the need to eat in order to survive. They wind up at a Manhattan diner, run by Pete (Louis Zorich) with his daughter Jenny (Juliana Donald) as waitress and, surprisingly, a bunch of muppet rats as fellow staff. The muppets don't really have the money to pay for the food, and that ultimate lack of money means the group is going to have to split up and get regular jobs while Kermit tries to sell the musical to a Broadway producer, at which point he'll bring them back together to do the show.

Surprisingly, Jenny, who is studying fashion design, takes a friendly liking to Kermit, and Pete is even more surprisingly sympathetic. He lets Kermit work at the diner, while Jenny and the rats come up with schemes that might get the musical noticed but wind up backfiring. Miss Piggy, meanwhile, is the only one of the group who has stayed in New York, where she spies on Kermit, being jealous of his relationship with Jenny.

Amazingly, there is a producer who likes Manhattan Melodies. Well, not quite. Bernard Crawford (Art Carney) is a famous producer who apparently told his son Ronnie (Lonnie Price) that he would help fund Ronnie's first attempt at producing a musical. Ronnie sees the script to Manhattan Melodies and likes it, even though Dad realizes it needs a lot of work. Still, there is that promise, so Ronnie gets to greenlight the musical, except that it has to go on stage in two weeks.

Worse is that after Kermit calls to get the band back together, he gets hit by a car, resulting in a case of amnesia. Will he be reunited with the other muppets in time for opening night? Will he ever remember who he is? Well, since this is a muppet movie, you have to expect a happy ending.

To be honest, the plot is surprisingly thin, with more of the script being given over to sketches portraying the individual muppets' development after they strike out on their own. That, and a couple of sequences involving the Kermit/Miss Piggy relationship. Still, the movie mostly works. As always, there's going to be a lot for kids to enjoy, but also enough grownup humor that the adults will enjoy but will go over kids' heads. Jim Henson had an acerbic sense of humor, if you've ever seen the Wilkins Coffee ads. Plus, there are cameos that kids probably didn't recognize 40 years ago, and almost certainly won't today. And, thankfully, the movie doesn't overstay its welcome.

The Muppets Take Manhattan is a nice entry in the muppet series, and one that definitely deserves watching.

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