The Muppets, for me are one of the handful of things on this planet that make life worth living. They are one of the very few times that this sarcastic, cynical, uptight Brit revels in sheer, unapologetic joy.
The movies, especially, have this incredible dynamic that includes sarcastic humour, slapstick, groan-worthy gags but also, through all this and because of all this, I suspect, you grow to really love and believe in the characters so that when they break into a song about love or friendship, that in a Disney movie would be some doe eyed, trite, vomit inducing ballad, it is genuinely touching and, in the best sense of the word, heartwarming.
Now, I will admit that the Muppets have lost some of their edge of late but in the early four films, The Movie, Take Manhattan, The Caper, Christmas Carol and some scenes in the underrated Muppets from Space, you get some of the most surreal and very often, bordering on, adult comedy in what is, essentially, a children's orientated film that definitely paved the way for the mature work Pixar does now.
For example in 'Take Manhattan' there is a scene where Gonzo gives mouth to beak resuscitation to a chicken and when asked if the chicken is alright Gonzo says "I don't know but I think we're engaged!" and then goes right back to, essentially, snogging the chicken! brilliant!
After all, we are talking about a series of characters, geared predominately for children, where one of them is called Gonzo, who takes his name, presumably, from the word most often used about Hunter S Thompson's style of first person, character based, drug induced journalism but that also has come to mean anything weirdly real, gritty, extreme and, in a circular development, can now mean 'with reckless abandon', surely because of the character from the muppets. He, obviously, loves chickens, is something of an exhibitionist and masochist, has weird and wonderful ideas about stuff and despite, until Muppets from Space, only being referred to as a 'whatever', shows that even the outsider can fit in perfectly with the right people.
This illustrates, again, the perfect balance the Muppets have between anarchic and sentimental that is an excellent reflection, in felt, sometimes animal based, puppets, of the best of humanity. It is that level of intelligence and focus on excellent entertainment that, for my money, makes the Muppets the very best 'for-all-the-family' entertainment there has ever been.
Now enough blabbering on about the genius of these character based hand puppets and on to reviewing the movie.
Well, firstly, I would like to state that out of the first four, what I consider, classic Muppet movies I think 'Take Manhattan' is, definitely, the weakest.
There just isn't a huge amount going on, apart from Kermit and Piggy a lot of the other characters are relegated to the side lines, or flashbacks and there isn't really a song in it that compares to Rainbow Connection from the first film or Happiness Hotel from Caper but it still has moments of sublime lunacy: the cafe owner Pete's insane ramblings, Kermit as a west coast agent with open shirt, medallions and a 'fro, Piggy on roller-skates, The swedish chef's version of 3-D and Kermit's amnesiac alter ego Phil and his friends from the ad agency. It also features the introduction of Muppet babies, a genuinely happy Muppet wedding featuring the fantastic and diverse casts of both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and enough laugh out loud moments to compensate for other areas where it is sadly lacking.
The pace is very slow in places, the actress who plays Jenny is spectacularly wooden and it's a bit unnerving, in a Lea Thompson/Howard The Duck type way, to see her hug Kermit so much and there isn't really a good celebrity cameo in it, although Dabney Coleman gives it his best shot.
All in all though, the happy-go-lucky Muppet spirit is on display all the way through the film and it was great to see it with friends at a midnight screening in New York.
6 out of 10 it's tomatoes, it's city, it's peoples, it's cheese, it's potatoes.