By Amy Tetreault
The Muppets Take Manhattan – 1984 – dir. Frank Oz
Muppets Take Manhattan is the third in a series of live-action musical feature films with Jim Henson’s loveable Muppets. Released in 1984, this is also the final film before Jim Henson’s sudden death in 1990. In 1992, Henson was posthumously awarded the Courage of Conscience Award for being a “Humanitarian, muppeteer, producer and director of films for children that encourage tolerance, interracial values, equality and fair play.” Muppets Take Manhattan is a great example of Henson’s renowned work for both kids and adults. In fact, at times, I thought the Muppets were better geared for adults than kids. Besides the fact that the Muppets are made of cloth, their story in Muppets Take Manhattan is totally relate-able. Especially right now.
The Muppets graduate from college with big dreams and learn quickly that the “real world” isn’t quite what they had hoped, an all too common feeling nowadays. The gang hopes to bring their college campus smash hit musical to Broadway, assuming that “by tomorrow night, we’ll be on Broadway!” But they suffer through wary producers, creepy scam artists hoping to make a buck, and a lack of interest all around. Soon enough, they’ve all gone their separate ways and are working less than ideal jobs. Sound familiar? As a recent college graduate, it sounds like the puppet version of my life.
The plot slowly thickens and swirls (although, admittedly, not too much more) and the film showcases guest appearances from Brooke Shields, Joan Rivers and the like. The Muppets perform good-old fashioned musical numbers that hearken back to the yesteryear of Hollywood musicals, while also learning important lessons that are applicable to both kids and adults. Such as . . .
Tell the Truth: When the gang decides to lie to Kermit, they only succeed in complicating the situation. Real friends should be able to discuss (sometimes very loudly) their feelings and ideas.
Work Hard: The Muppets are forced to take some unpleasant jobs during the film. But the key here is that they take the jobs and work hard, still always working towards their dream. Work hard and you can achieve anything! (At least that’s what I tell myself everyday from 9AM to 5PM)
Stay Positive: The best part about the Muppets is that they never, never, never throw in the towel. Their postcards to Kermit are cheerful and their attitude towards their jobs is content. Sure, life may suck right now, but it will get better soon!
Those Muppets are great teachers and I think people back in 1984 must have enjoyed Muppets Take Manhattan as much as I did, because it grossed $25.5 million and landed a position as one of the top 40 films of the year. Plus, the film was nominated for three Oscars: Best Music and Original Song Score, Best Music and Best Family Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Sure it didn’t win, but the film remains a classic Jim Henson, and in my very real world, that’s more worthwhile than any fancy award.