The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, Juliana Donald, Lonny Price, Louis Zorich

Directed by Frank Oz

Expectations: Moderate. This was the one I thought was slow and not that good when I was a kid.


Of all the Muppet movies, I was looking forward to re-watching this one the least. It was always my least favorite of the trilogy, and I’ve seen a lot of negativity around it on the Internet (I know… surprising that you’d find negativity on the Internet). My fears were allayed almost immediately after the film began, though, as I was quickly wrapped up in the storyline and the way it unfolded before me. Because I was just a little indifferent to this one as a kid, I’ve seen it the least (which is still probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 20+ watches), so I also remembered the least about it before it started. As it rolled along, I found that I remembered everything in it, and the greatest thing about that was that as each scene came up, I remembered it fondly.

The film opens with Kermit and company performing their musical, Manhattan Melodies, in their college’s auditorium. They’ve put on the show as their senior project and are now recent graduates looking to put their stamp on that big, wide world around them. With stars in their eyes, and the supportive college audience cheering them on, they set out for Broadway. But when they get there, they discover that they aren’t the hot fire they thought they were, and their efforts are met with frustration, despair and heartache.

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The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

Starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Charles Grodin, Diana Rigg, John Cleese, Robert Morley, Peter Ustinov, Jack Warden, Steve Whitmire

Directed by Jim Henson

Expectations: High. This was always my favorite Muppet movie as a kid.


While The Muppet Movie brought your favorite puppets to the big screen, it was lacking in one major area: plot. I don’t mean this as a knock, the road adventure works well for that film, but The Great Muppet Caper does a great job being its own thing and providing a completely different experience than that original film. So where The Muppet Movie was a string of random events with a shoestring plot, The Great Muppet Caper is almost entirely plot.

Kermit and Fozzie play investigative journalists recently employed by the Daily Chronicle. They’re sent on assignment to London to interview Lady Holiday about her stolen diamonds, but due to a mix-up Kermit thinks Miss Piggy is Lady Holiday. It’s a mystery, it’s a love story, it’s a rollicking good comedy; The Great Muppet Caper is full of life. It’s been almost 20 years since I last watched this, but I saw it so many times in my youth that I was still able to sing along to many of the songs and I remembered large sections of the film shot by shot, and joke by joke. While that might work against some films, it only enriched the experience of re-watching The Great Muppet Caper for me; I was in Muppet heaven.

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The Muppet Movie (1979)

Starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Charles Durning, Austin Pendleton

Directed by James Frawley

Expectations: High. Hopefully my loving memories of this, brought to the surface by watching the new one, will hold up.


After watching the recent Muppets revival film, I kept turning over my memories of watching the old gang throughout my youth. I could have been the main character in that film, full of nothing but love and admiration for my felt-skinned friends. The Muppets meant more to me than they probably should have, and this deep love of the characters made watching The Muppets something of a strange affair. As time went on afterwards I kept wondering if maybe I was misremembering the old trilogy of my youth, so as any good movie reviewin’ webmaster should, I decided that a series re-watch was in order. And as soon as The Muppet Movie began, I was greeted with that old feeling that I knew and loved. It wasn’t just a case of remembering wrong, the old ones clearly have the juice the newest film does not.

The Muppet Movie seeks to tell the origin story of how all our friends originally got together… or something like that. The film starts with the Muppets all gathered in a movie theater, waiting to watch The Muppet Movie. Kermit’s pint-sized nephew asks him, just as the film begins, if this is really how everyone got together. Kermit replies that it’s basically how it went down, signaling that while it’ll take us on an adventure, it’s not necessarily going to be one rooted in reality. This is a fantasy, or more accurately a dream, given to us through the eyes of a charming frog with a desire to make the world happy. Kermit’s big dreams inform the entire film, as well as teaching some great, moral lessons to children along the way.

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The Muppets (2011)

Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz

Directed by James Bobin

Expectations: High. Muppets were my thing as a kid.


OK, this review could very easily slip into a 1200 word rant on why this is a disingenuous attempt at bringing back the Muppets, characters I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. These guys are in my soul, from Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock to the Muppets proper. When I heard Disney was producing a new, old-school Muppets movie, I became instantly excited. Star and screenwriter Jason Segal assured everyone that it was his passion, and that no one would be disappointed. On one hand, they’ve totally pulled it off: The Muppets is a fun, lighthearted movie for the whole family. But on the other hand, for hardcore fans of Jim Henson’s work and the three original Muppet films, there’s a distinct difference in the quality of the end results.

The Muppets is essentially a remake of The Blues Brothers, with the Muppet Theater in jeopardy from an evil oil baron and Kermit forced to get the band back together for one big fundraisin’ show of a lifetime. Before we get to Kermit and the rest of the gang, though, we’re introduced to Gary and Walter. Gary is a human (played by Jason Segal) and Walter is a puppet. They’re brothers and no one ever mentions how or why he has a puppet for a brother. Walter does notice the difference, though, and feels like an outcast until he discovers the Muppets. While Walter is ultimately a good addition to the cast, he is also part of the problem.

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