[box cover]

The Muppets Take Manhattan

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) is something of a bittersweet affair, marking not only Frank Oz's directorial debut but the final performance of Muppets creator Jim Henson as well. This third outing, the last in the original "Muppet Trilogy," lifts the majority of its plot straight from The Muppet Movie: Kermit the Frog and his friends have just graduated from college and move to New York, eager to break into the entertainment business. Their potential ticket to stardom is "Manhattan Melodies," a musical penned by Kermit, which his friends are sure will be a smash on Broadway. New York's an expensive place to live, however, and while Kermit continues marketing the script, the rest of the gang is forced to take odd jobs around the country to make ends meet. The movie gets sidetracked on a few occasions, with the main culprits being a ridiculous subplot involving a pointless case of amnesia, a sunny but ultimately unnecessary performance by Juliana Donald as Kermit's human sidekick Jenny (think Piper Perabo in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle), and a barrage of distracting celebrity cameos (Dabney Coleman, Gregory Hines, Linda Lavin, Joan Rivers and lots more) that repeatedly interrupt the flow of the story. It's also a little disappointing that the film splits up its characters for most of its running time; a lot of the Muppet magic is the result of the interactions between Kermit, Fozzie and the rest of the gang, and portions of the film suffer when they're separated. These grievances, however, are more than tempered by the wonderful new songs by composer Jeff Moss (including "Together Again" and "You Can't Take 'No' For an Answer"), the almost exotic — and hauntingly beautiful — New York backdrop, and the sheer spirit of fun that results every time any of our felt-covered friends are onscreen. Although not the best film in the series, The Muppets Take Manhattan's heart is in the right place: the tunes are catchy, the humor retains the zany, self-depreciating qualities of the earlier Muppet outings, and you'll even get to witness the origin of the popular Muppet Babies cartoon series via a hilarious flashback. (And hey, if that's still not enough to pique your interest, there's always the Fozzie Bear "nookie" scene.) Columbia TriStar presents The Muppets Take Manhattan in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, with a pan-and-scan version offered on the same disc. (Note: the back of the box states that the widescreen version is on Side A and the full-frame version on Side B — this is not true. The DVD contains both versions on the same side; the viewer selects the desired aspect ratio after inserting the disc.) The widescreen transfer looks terrific, containing none of the video softness and overly pink colors that marred The Muppet Movie's DVD release. Supplemental features include five brief interview clips with the late Jim Henson (which are entertaining without actually being informative), three "Muppetisms" (i.e., Muppet public service announcements, each imparting a different moral), four audio tracks (English, Spanish, French and Portuguese), seven optional subtitle tracks (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai), and a trailer gallery (though Manhattan's own trailer is nowhere to be found). Keep-case.
—Joe Barlow



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