Sony // 1999 // 88 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // August 16th, 2011
The ultimate Muppet trip.
Haunted by dreams in which the biblical Noah disqualifies him from a seat on the Ark because he has no mate, hook-beaked whatchamacallit Gonzo the Great is down in the dumps. His best buddy Kermit the Frog is too busy managing a crazy house full of Muppets to offer much helpful advice or comfort. When he begins receiving messages spelled out in his breakfast cereal (possibly from an alien planet that may be his home world), Gonzo sets out on a journey of self-discovery. The blue Muppet's search for the truth eventually lands him in trouble with a nefarious and self-loathing government bureaucrat (Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development). When Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat are captured and held in a government research facility, Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the gang set off on a rescue misson. Cameos by Rob Schneider, Andie McDowell, and Ray Liotta ensue. In addition, Hollywood Hulk Hogan shows up to deliver a shameless and humorless plug for the WWE; David Arquette chews scenery as a psychotic lab technician who makes Rizzo's life hell; and Kathy Griffin plays a security guard who is sexually assaulted by Animal (I kid you not). Along the way, we're treated to a series of montages set to funk and soul classics like "Brick House," "Shining Star," and "Celebration," and eventually learn a valuable lesson about appreciating our uniqueness (or something).
Muppets from Space is a solid piece of family entertainment, though I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did. There's just no getting around it: The Muppets franchise may not have lost its formula upon creator Jim Henson's death in 1990, but it definitely lost a hefty chunk of its soul. Muppets from Space has the sight gags, silliness, pop culture references, and celebrity cameos we've come to expect of the series, but little of Henson's gently subversive wit and only a fraction of the warmth of character that the world's most famous puppet show thrived on in its heyday.
To its credit, Muppets from Space minimizes the involvement of human characters, focusing on the travails of Gonzo and the other Muppets. Unfortunately, there's a greater focus on secondary Muppets like Rizzo, Pepe the King Prawn, and Clifford the catfish than there is on the more familiar characters who took center stage on The Muppet Show back in the day. Maybe this is the old fogie in me talking, but the relatively small role of formerly major Muppet players robs the movie of much charm. Kermit and Miss Piggy have their moments in Muppets from Space, but Fozzie is grossly under-used. Cameos by Rowlf the Dog, Statler and Waldorf, Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and Beaker come across as obligatory sops to longtime fans, entirely unnecessary to the movie's plot. Beyond those problems, Muppets from Space has an even greater shortcoming: As much as a Muppet movie starring Gonzo the Great sounds like a super idea on paper, I'm not sure I wanted to know that he was from outer space. I think I liked it better when he was just an unidentified, mosquito-beaked thingamajig.
Muppets from Space lands on Blu-ray in a thoroughly pleasing 1080p/AVC transfer that shows off the fine texture of Kermit's felt, Fozzie's individual curls, and all of the subtle glittery shades of purple and blue on Gonzo's beak. Depth and detail are excellent throughout. Digital artifacts are minimal, and not at all intrusive.
The uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio mix is rich, loud, and detailed across the entire soundstage. Dialogue is crisp, while the funk and soul soundtrack packs plenty of vibrant midrange and low-end punch.
Extras include a six-minute reel of 19 outtakes that are mostly interesting as a demonstration of how the Muppeteers stay in character even during flubs; a music video for the Dust Brothers' cover of "Shining Star"; and theatrical and teaser trailers for the movie. The disc is also BD-Live enhanced. A second disc contains a DVD version of the movie.
Muppets from Space doesn't reach the heights of The Muppet Movie or The Great Muppet Caper, but it's sure to please young viewers and prove passably entertaining for parents. One could find much, much worse in the realm of family entertainment.
Review content copyright © 2011 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Danish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Russian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Swedish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Music Video