Hey, A Movie!: The Muppets Take Manhattan
Peoples is peoples.
In 1975, the second of two pilot episodes for what would become The Muppet Show aired, with the subtitle “Sex and Violence.” It is, if nothing else, an attention-getting subtitle that’s going to make a few people sit up and take notice, especially since when you think of the Muppets, you probably think of them as being family-friendly entertainers. The Muppets extend from Sesame Street to Saturday Night Live, and are far more than just Kermit and Piggy and Fozzie. But in general, when you think of the Muppets, you don’t think of sex and violence. Maybe you think of the implication of sex in the long-term will-they, won’t-they relationship between Kermit and Piggy, or the purportedly violent stunts pulled off by the Great Gonzo. But it’s all playful and safe, and I use the latter of those descriptors not in a bad way.
But there is something a little edgy and risky about the Muppets’ humor in their five-season variety show, as well as in films like The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper. Those films were not just adventures, but they were, in a sense, about themselves. The Muppet Movie is both a road-trip picture, and a story about making a road-trip picture. The Great Muppet Caper literally opens with the Muppets letting us know that they’re about to slip into character, and that the movie is all a big, fun setup for gags and goofs.
The Muppets Take Manhattan, if you look at it from the right angle, is also about itself. It, too, is a story about telling a story. It, too, has the Muppets adopting certain character types. I remember enjoying The Muppets Take Manhattan a good deal when I was a kid, and now that I am either an adult or an overgrown kid (take your pick), I am a little less enamored with the film. This is a very cute movie. That word feels most apt, and shows you how far removed the Muppets were barely a decade after…well, after sex and violence.
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