Muppets from Space

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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Muppets from Space
Add some bread and cheese, and
you've got a club sandwich!
Our review of The Muppet Movie, if and when we ever get around to it, will reveal that we are huge fans of the Muppets. On Sesame Street, they taught us how to read and count. They also taught us that sometimes two men will elect to live together and sleep in the same room with their initials carved into the headboards of their beds. While watching The Muppet Show, we enjoyed vaudeville humor and music, appearances by top-notch celebrities, and the mind-altering contortions of the Mummenschanz. And in the pinnacle of Muppet entertainment, The Muppet Movie, we were treated to amazing feats of puppetry combined with great storytelling, caustic humor, life lessons, a fabulous cast, and even a giant monster.* Truly, the Muppets had attained the highest caliber of showmanship.

Muppets from Space, on the other hand, is merely a good flick with a handful of chuckles. It involves the age-old question: what, exactly, is Gonzo? In The Muppet Movie, it was decided that he was "sort of like a turkey, but not much." In subsequent appearances, he has been called a "whatever" and a "weirdo." But because every franchise must eventually exploit -- uh, explore these mysteries, the story of Gonzo's origin becomes clear: he is, of course, an alien, and his people have contacted him through his alphabet breakfast cereal.

Muppets from Space
"Ha! You're too late! There's already
a hand up my rear!"
The opportunities for clever cameos here are endless; wouldn't we all love to see Leonard Nimoy arrive on the scene, or one of the Star Wars cast? (Isn't Yoda a Muppet?) Shouldn't Richard Dreyfuss come in for a close encounter? How about E.T.? Or maybe even the Holy Grail of alien investigator cameos, an appearance by Mulder and Scully? Muppets from Space manages none of these, instead relying on lesser pop culture icons to make brief and nonsensical line deliveries that usually fall flat. Take, for example, the scene in which we see Katie Holmes and Josh Jackson from Dawson's Creek. Are we really supposed to be impressed by guest stars who have had shorter (not to mention less impressive) careers than Gonzo and Rizzo themselves? Mercifully, the hyped-up part for Miss Piggy's adversary, Andie McDowell, is quite short.

Despite the title, it takes an awfully long time for the film to involve anything from space, unless you count the Cosmic Fish who visit Gonzo in a lightning-inspired hallucination. (You're just gonna have to watch the movie.) Most of the plot revolves around a rogue Man in Black (Jeffrey Tambor) and his bear sidekick. Man, that bear cracks us up! The Men (and Bear) in Black are trying to apprehend Gonzo so they can finally have some proof that aliens exist. Although Gonzo initially keeps them at bay, he and Rizzo are eventually captured, and of course it's up to their Muppet pals to rescue them. The rescue attempt is appropriately wacky, but the one-liners just don't come as fast or as furiously, and the best payoff is Rizzo's escape from his new life as a laboratory rat, a la The Shawshank Redemption.

Muppets from Space is really a film for fans of the Muppets and for kids. It has infinitely more originality and creativity than gooey children's fare like the endless string of Land Before Time flicks, but it lacks the energy and edginess of the previous Muppet offerings. Heck, even Muppet Treasure Island had that weird "Cabin Fever" number to throw us off guard. As the movies grow ever more derivative, we wish someone would come along and jolt the Muppet performers and writers back into that old frenzy, in which they took more chances and got more laughs.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 8/3/99

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* Animal drank that growth serum, remember? Go back!