Metrograph’s Play Time with Jim Henson unleashes the Muppets

Metrograph’s kid-friendly matinee series Play Time with Jim Henson tunes into the true essence of the Muppets by displaying their larger-than-life personalities. The series’ run was extended until April 24 with new screenings every weekend.


“Play Time with Jim Henson” is a new series at the Metrograph showcasing Muppets films. (Photo courtesy of Metrograph)

Saige Gipson, Staff Writer

“Play Time with Jim Henson” at Metrograph is captivating in every way. It provides a screen large enough and sounds loud enough for the Muppets to display their rambunctious silliness and heart-wrenching emotional performances. 

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The series, which showcases puppet films from the golden age of the Henson Company, has extended its run to include some of Henson’s lesser known works, such as “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal.” 

Miss Piggy is a stuffed puppet of a pink pig. A pink Muppet wearing a pink dress holds a green Muppet wearing a black-and-white tuxedo in front of a pink wall.
Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are two main characters from the Muppets media franchise. (Photo courtesy of Metrograph)

In a screening of Frank Oz’s  “Muppets Take Manhattan,” the crowd was unable to control its laughter as a frenzied perfume saleswoman roughly applies makeup to Miss Piggy. The saleswoman, played by Joan Rivers, throws makeup on herself as well as Miss Piggy in an effort to cheer up the famous pig. As cosmetic pigments and powders fill the air, Rivers and Piggy begin to look more ridiculous — cackling crazily all the while.

Emotions as strong as those evoked by Jim Henson’s Muppets should be shared with an audience, if not for the enjoyment of hearing others’ laughter then for the validation that you are not crazy for shedding tears over the relationship between a pig and a frog. 

The absurdist comedy associated with the Muppets is all the more captivating on the big screen. The subtle jokes of “Muppets Take Manhattan,” like Kermit outshining Liza Minnelli, who plays herself in the film, at the Manhattan restaurant Sardi’s, land better in the theater because you can hear the laughter of other audience members while seeing the exaggerated expressions on screen.

Rivers’ and Miss Piggy’s howling laughter recalls the way best friends laugh together. The audience followed suit as the characters’ giggles exploded through the theater. Rivers and Miss Piggy laugh and yell in an almost frightening manner. 

Despite the Muppets being constructed of mere felt and foam, the puppeteers are able to achieve hilariously absurd physical comedy. One scene shows Miss Piggy stealing a man’s roller skates to chase down a thief who stole her purse in Central Park. She has to pull many bizarre stunts, all the while screaming in her shrill yet demure voice. Miss Piggy skates down a flight of stairs, through bushes and off a hill to tackle the thief.  The crowd not only laughed, but shrieked as Miss Piggy faced various obstacles, each one eliciting more hysterical screams from the pig.

A Muppet wearing a white shirt, a patterned sweater and a trench coat holds a camera in front of a crowd of people.
Other characters from the Muppets, like Gonzo, appear in the films showcased at the Metrograph’s new series. (Photo courtesy of Metrograph)

Metrograph often hosts Play Time series targeted toward families and children, with films suitable for kids playing during weekend matinees. The Play Time with Jim Henson series highlights the Muppets’ creator, Jim Henson and gives audiences a chance to see his works as well as new avenues of puppet filmmaking. The series is showing films from many prominent puppet film directors such as Jim Henson, Oz, Brian Henson, James Frawley and Tim Hill. 

The amusingly bizarre comedy of the Muppets is more powerful on the big screen. It feels as though the puppets are where they are meant to be at Metrograph’s “Play Time with Jim Henson” series. “Play Time with Jim Henson” is now on view at Metrograph at 7 Ludlow. The series includes “The Great Muppet Caper,” “The Muppet Movie,” “Muppet Treasure Island,” “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” “Muppets From Outer Space,” “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal.”

Contact Saige Gibson at [email protected].