M: As C mentioned in the Adventure Films post, we feel we’ve been a bit TV-heavy lately. That’s bound to happen at the start of the season, but we’re not going to let that be an excuse to deprive you, our readers. So that, plus a strange little product I discovered in the men’s room of my office (more on this in a minute, and no, you won’t be grossed out), have led us to the next installment of Family Favorites… The Muppets Take Manhattan.
As we’ve mentioned before, we were raised watching classic films. We were also raised watching the Muppets. For E and I, who are older, that meant the Muppet Show, while for C it was more of the movies, and the cartoon Muppet Babies. The humor of the Muppets was (E: is!) right up our alley. Of course we loved the stupid puns, corny jokes and the physical comedy, but we loved the wit and intelligence that they brought, too. The jokes often times went over our heads as children, but that’s part of what makes the Muppets so remarkably re-watchable; you can find little bits of humor in them that you didn’t see the last time, or the last 20 times, you watched. (E: Some of the little throw away lines are genius!) The show itself, airing in the late 70’s and early 80’s, was able to catch the end of the country’s appetite for variety shows. Jim Henson ended the show at the height of its popularity, and moved on to other projects, which included the Muppet movies. While we all love and adore each of the movies, (well, each of the movies made before Henson passed away, at least C: And The Muppet Christmas Carol!) the one that we really wore out was The Muppets Take Manhattan.
C: When I was little this was the comfort movie I watched whenever I was sick, because, based on empirical testing, I determined that there was exactly nothing wrong with it.
M: There’s a constant stream of fantastic cameos, from Art Carney to Gregory Hines, Joan Rivers to Brooke Shields, and even the Mayor of New York (at the time) Ed Koch. (C: Plus Elliott Gould and Liza Minnelli...)
And there’s the ridiculously fantastic idea that not only did the Muppet characters all decide to go to college, but they all got into the same college, and took over the theater department entirely, writing and putting on their own play. Because, you know, that could happen, right?
E: Well, maybe that school had a pro-Muppet admissions office?
M: Good point, I wasn’t considering Muppet affirmative action!
C: Few colleges make that quota.
E: The new college graduates arrive in the Big Apple, sure that mere hours separate them from Broadway stardom. Instead they end up sleeping lockers in Grand Central Station.
C: “I’ll trade with anyone who has a jacuzzi!”
E: Their search for a producer to put on their play leads them to a lot of slammed doors and a fantabulous crook played by Dabney Coleman (with Dr. Beverly Crusher as his receptionist! M: In her film debut, no less!). Most of the Muppets return to their home states and various unfulfilling jobs (revealed hilariously through a series of postcards, none more brilliant than Rolf the dog’s soul-killing stint checking other dogs in at a kennel) while Kermit holds the fort down in NYC, famously yelling “the frog is STAYING!” off the top of the Empire State in NYC (M: with “staying” done in Jim Henson’s best Peter-Brady-voice-cracking impersonation).
Kermit finds work at Pete’s Diner, a marvelous little joint run by Pete (perhaps the most quotable human in any Muppet offering), his daughter Jenny, and Rizzo the Rat.
C: Who gets to deliver the unforgettable line: “Do you believe in interspecies dating?”
M: To which Brooke Shields replies “I’ve dated some rats, if that’s what you mean.” Then there’s the remarkably well-written scene that helped inspire this post, where Kermit, afflicted by amnesia and looking for work, stumbles on another highly likely scenario, three frogs with rhyming names running a small ad agency, brainstorming slogans for a product: Ocean Breeze soap. (C: What is all this talk about “likelihood”? They’re Muppets. They are beyond such sordid concerns as realism.) Their best efforts before his arrival are “Ocean Breeze soap, for people who don’t want to stink” and the all time classic “Ocean Breeze soap: it’s just like going on an ocean cruise, only there’s no boat and you don’t actually go anywhere.” On Kermit’s advice they instead go with “Ocean Breeze Soap will get you clean,” though one of them croaks: “Just say what the product does? Nobody’s ever tried that before!”
So with that exchange firmly etched into my permanent memory, I found myself in the mens’ room looking at the new “Air Neutralizer,” which I’m guessing is the new marketing name for an air freshener. Anyway, it was Ocean Breeze brand, and its slogan is “Smells clean, is clean.” At least in my mind, there’s no way that’s a coincidence!
E: I still cannot believe there is such a thing as Ocean Breeze soap. That kills me. If I’d been you I probably would have ended up hyperventilating on the bathroom floor from laughing too hard.
M: I nearly did!
E: Now I know what to get you for your birthday. 😉
M: Much appreciated.
C: The movie is filled with a hundreds of hilarious moments, which I’m always reminded of at odd times during my life (like when my doctor taps on my knee with a little hammer, for instance). It’s got something else we haven’t mentioned yet, too: wonderful music. What’s not to love about “Together Again,” or a team of chickens doing their impression of Tony Bennett singing the “William Tell Overture“? And if “Saying Goodbye” doesn’t make you tear up, be concerned that your soul might be broken.
E: This movie, in the end, is about living your dream, and even more, about friends becoming family, and the benefits of showing kindness to strangers. But mostly, it’s good, clean, incredibly clever and incredibly silly and incredibly joyous fun.
M: Still, I think it needed exploding socks.