Reviewed by: Matthew Prins
Starring: Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Bill Barretta, Jerry Nelson, Brian Henson, Kevin Clash, Frank Oz, Jeffrey Tambor, F. Murray Abraham, Rob Schneider, Josh Charles, Ray Liotta, David Arquette, Andie MacDowell, Kathy Griffin | Director: Tim Hill
After watching “Muppets From Space”, I went home and watched “The Great Muppet Caper” on tape. I did this because there were many times during “Muppets From Space” where I thought I had imagined the greatness of the earlier Muppet movies, or I wondered if there were a certain age where I had simply outgrown their antics. After watching “The Great Muppet Caper” again, I was relieved; the spark and the joy within me when I watched it as a child and an adolescent came roaring back while watching it again as an adult. But where is the joy in “Muppets From Space”?
I am too harsh. There certainly is some joy in “Muppets From Space”, and it comes from where the movie is at its most loony. When Gonzo starts receiving messages from aliens in his breakfast cereal and in a sandwich and tries to explain this occurrence to the other Muppets, it’s quite funny. When Hollywood Hulk Hogan comes on the screen to promote his wrestling show, it’s really funny. And there are other chuckles throughout the movie that I won’t ruin for the reader. But often first-time director Tim Hill seems to think that just having the Muppets on screen in funny costumes parading around deadpan adults is funny.
Furthermore, the movie is far too modern. One of the great things about the previous Muppet movies is that they had a timeless quality to them. Other than the hairstyles and fashions, I wouldn’t have guessed that “The Great Muppet Caper” was from the early 80s. But many aspects of “Muppets From Space”—including the special effects and parody references—are distinctly late 90s. It isn’t right seeing the Muppets locked down to one time period. Adding to the problem, the musical selections are all 70s disco songs (none original to this movie), right in sync with the resurgence of that decade in popular culture.
Perhaps you have noticed at this point that the names “Kermit” and “Miss Piggy” have not yet been mentioned in this review. There is a reason for this: they are decidedly minor characters in “Muppets From Space”—akin to, say, Gonzo in the previous Muppet movies. And “Muppets From Space” is Gonzo’s movie, since the entire storyline revolves around his search for other creatures like him. Because he is on front and center, less of the rampant zanyness that he’s known for comes forth. He’s made almost normal, and there isn’t anyone in “Muppets From Space” who takes over the craziness the way Gonzo could. Not only are Kermit and Miss Piggy pushed out of the spotlight, many minor characters from the previous Muppet movies virtually disappear, including Fozzie, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Scooter, Janice, and Waldorf. [It is alleged that the person who voiced for Scooter died, and so out of respect Scooter, too, was retired.] I may only feel this way because I’ve already seen the old movies, though. The audience I saw the movie with was mostly parents with small children, and the children got a lot more out of “Muppets From Space” than I did. Perhaps this movie is more suited for them than for twenty-somethings like me.
Most likely to offend Christians in the audience is the first scene of the movie. Gonzo dreams that he is back in Genesis times, and Noah (F. Murray Abraham) is loading animals on the ark. Gonzo asks to be allowed on, but Noah won’t allow him since, after all, there’s only one Gonzo. Then he hands Gonzo an umbrella. Parents of young children may be at a loss to explain these actions of this less-than-kind Noah. Otherwise, there are just the staples of Muppetry—cartoonish slapstick violence, moderately scary villains, really bad puns. Young children will likely latch on to “Muppets From Space” because of those staples and because the Muppets are so cute and so fuzzy and occasionally so very funny. It’s just too bad there isn’t as much for adults to enjoy.