Blast From the Past: The Muppets Take Manhattan

In honor of yesterday being a weird-feeling day and whatnot, I didn’t write a new post.  And since today is Tuesday (AKA trivia night), I don’t have the energy to write a review of the movie I watched last night or the stand up special I watched a couple of days ago.  (Both were pretty good, but you’ll hear about those later.)

That means it’s time for me to pull another one out of the vault.  (I wonder how many more of these I have to pull from…)  This one I’m pretty stoked about.  It is another favorite of mine, and not enough people have seen this classic Muppets flick.  It is amazing, so you really should watch it.  Also, it’s where the TV show The Muppet Babies originated from, and it’s the movie where Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy get married.  (Did you know they are married?  They are.  It happens in this movie.)

The Muppets Take ManhattanHow does the film build the emotional moments that center specifically on Kermit’s lost memory?

The Muppets are arguably the most loved puppets of all time, and their television shows and movies are classics.  They are successful not only because they are cute, but also because their writers know what they are doing.  In the 1984 film The Muppets Take Manhattan, Kermit and the gang move to New York City in order to get their musical on Broadway, but as soon as they get a producer, Kermit gets amnesia.  Throughout the film there are many elements that center specifically on Kermit’s memory loss, which manipulate the audience emotionally and make the resolution that much more satisfying.

Their main objective in moving to New York City is to get “Manhattan Melodies” on Broadway.  It is about two young lovers who move to New York to get married and experience big city life for the first time.  The plot of their show directly parallels Kermit and Miss Piggy’s lives.  In wanting their show to get produced and be a hit, the audience also wants them to play out the show in their lives and actually get married.  Our hopes are high at the idea of such great things to come.

While the audience does want the Muppets to succeed in their goal, we need major obstacles for them to overcome in order to feel fulfilled.  The fact that they spent four months looking for a producer and failing is not enough.  Having another obstacle just when you think they are home free increases the suspense and payoff.  In juxtaposition to the sudden great news that they have a producer, Kermit gets hit by a car.  The audience’s emotions go quickly from high to low. When Ronnie tells Miss Piggy and Jenny the show is going to open in two weeks, this should be a high moment, albeit nerve-racking, but because Kermit is missing it makes the low moment even lower.

When Kermit wakes up in the hospital with amnesia, we believe there is the possibility that while he does not know who he is, the doctor might.  Our dreams are dashed, however, because she is not at all helpful, making the audience feel almost hopeless:  he is told to start a new life, but his old life urgently needs him.  To make matters worse, Kermit was practically alone in the big city before, but now that he has to start a new life he feels even lonelier.  The audience loves him too much to see him without his friends or even knowing who he is.

There is a heightened emotional response many times after he has started his new life, because there are narrow misses in which the gang is so close to him, but they never see each other.  The audience wants the gang to know Kermit is all right, but we also think perhaps if they see him they might be able to help him somehow.  The suspense holds out until opening day.  Kermit slips unnoticed into the diner where everyone is gathered, mourning over his absence on what should be a wonderful day.  We are left wondering if this will be the time they find each other or if it is just another narrow miss.

In the opening of the film, the gang is performing from their musical, the last number “Together Again.”  It is an upbeat song with the lyrics, “Gee, it’s good to be together again/ I just can’t imagine that you’ve ever been gone/ It’s not starting over, it’s just going on/ Now we’re here and there’s no need remembering when.”  These lyrics have more meaning now that Kermit has amnesia.  While sitting in the diner on opening day, Kermit, through some miracle, begins tapping the glasses in front of him.  The tapping soon turns into the tune of a slow version of “Together Again.”  The gang, along with the audience, begins to recognize the song.  We are given hope that maybe he has his memory back.  Our dreams are dashed yet again, however, when the gang confronts him.  He has no idea who they are.

One of the incentives for Miss Piggy to move to New York was that Kermit promised to marry her once they had money.  She saw their musical as an opportunity to strike it rich and finally get married.  Considering they have been sweethearts for as long as they have been in our lives, the audience wants this to happen, as well.  Though, with Kermit’s amnesia he does not even remember her, let alone want to marry her.  This is another emotional low for the audience.  Kermit even laughs at the absurdity of a frog being in love with a pig and makes fun of her.  Now we are even lower.  Thankfully, it is because of this incitement that Miss Piggy karate chops him, which brings back his memory.  Finally, the audience gets what we wanted, and we have an emotional high.

After Kermit is back to normal, he proves he is himself by singing another number from “Manhattan Melodies.”  He sings, “Look at me, here I am/ Right where I belong/ I see that face coming back to me/ Like an old familiar song/ What better place could anyone be?/ It’s all I’ve been looking for/ Nothing can go wrong, Cause I am here right where I belong!”  The audience has an even higher emotional high and is now assured at the literal last minute the show will go on.  Not only is this song more significant because of the ordeal he just went through, but because their musical parallels his life, it implies that the show will be a hit and he and Miss Piggy will get married.

Had Kermit not regained his memory “Manhattan Melodies” would have been missing one of its stars—had it happened at all—Miss Piggy would have lost the love of her life, and the whole gang, including America, would have lost one of their best friends.  With such great things at stake, the audience’s emotional lows are deep, which makes the positive outcome equally as high.

And because I would just post the entire movie on here if I could, here is a clip.  This is the original Muppet Babies, which just so happens to be THE CUTEST thing ever in a movie in all of cinema history.  This is cuter, even, than the whole of the film Wall-E, which is really damn adorable from start to finish.

Okay, since I can’t get enough of this movie, here is another clip.  This is actually the first time the character Rizzo the Rat is ever introduced.

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