Our review of Muppets from Space (Blu-ray), published August 16th, 2011, is also available.
Space. It's not as deep as you think.
From Jim Henson productions comes Muppets From Space. This time out the story focuses on Gonzo (the voice of Dave Goelz), who is feeling very lonely. Gonzo is the only one of his kind on the planet and he wants to know where he comes from. Well, lo and behold, through the mystical magic of spelling cereal, Gonzo learns that he is an alien and his kind has been trying to contact him by sending messages throughout the world. The plot really gets moving when we learn of a government agency has been tracking these same messages. The agency is headed by K. Edgar Singer (Jeffrey Tambor). Singer is trying to hang onto his government funding, and getting his hands on a real live alien would save his hide. Singer dispatches his men in black to track down Gonzo. Along with Rizzo the Rat (voiced by Steve Whittmore), Gonzo is taken into custody. Medical experiments are the order of the day, so the rest of the Muppet gang spring into action to free their friends. After the usual misadventures and blind luck, the Muppets are victorious and head off to the meeting site so that Gonzo can meet his clan. Not so easily deterred, Singer goes off in hot pursuit. In a cement truck. Gonzo does indeed meet the others of his kind but decides to stay on earth with his "real" family. Singer has the "G" rated movie change of heart and a la Close Encounters of the Third Kind goes into space with the aliens. The Muppets head home and everybody is happy.
Written by Jerry Juhl and Joey Mazzarino, Muppets From Space keeps the jokes coming at a breakneck pace and to their credit the screenwriters keep the schmaltz to a minimum.
Muppets From Space is one of those family films that old and young are able to enjoy together. Everything moves quickly, the colors are bright and there is enough physical humor to keep the kids transfixed. For the adults, there are enough witty asides and movie references to keep us interested and enough jokes to keep us laughing, most of the time. There are, of course, musical numbers galore with the opening dance number, a Muppets tradition, being a rocking version of the Commodore's "Brick House" that brings the house down.
The movie also tries something a little different by not focusing on the "main" Muppet characters of Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzie. This works to the film's benefit as well as its detriment. The plus side is getting to know a different group of supporting characters. Of particular note are Pepe the Prawn and Rizzo the Rat. They have the movie's best lines and they are a lot of fun to watch. The down side is the missing camaraderie between the "main three." The performers and writers don't seem to be completely sure of how to handle the relationships of the new characters. In the second half of the film this indecision shows and the movie bogs down.
Muppets From Space has the usual assortment of human actors in supporting roles and cameos. This time out there is the aforementioned Tambor (television's "Max Headroom" and "The Larry Sanders Show"), F. Murray Abraham (Star Trek: Insurrection, The Mimic, Amadeus), Ray Liotta (GoodFellas, Something Wild), Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day, sex, lies and videotape), David Arquette (Scream 1, 2 and 3, Ready to Rumble) and Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, Big Daddy), as is the usual case, some cameos score points, others fall flat.
Muppets From Space is being released from Columbia TriStar so you know it is going to look good and boy does it ever. This picture is just about perfect. The colors are bright but never too bright. Fleshtones on the human actors are true and lifelike. Blacks and dimly lit show no bleed whatsoever and are solid with remarkable detail. I could detect no edge enhancement and there was no digital compression present either. Viewers have the option of watching the film in either full-frame or the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. If you are a reader of most any DVD site, you know the way we prefer to watch movies. Get the kids early and you will never have to explain to the kids what those "funny black bars" are.
On the sound front the choice is given between either a 2-channel Dolby Surround or a 5.1 mix. The 5.1 is not the most active of mixes but it is very, very good. Discrete surrounds are kept to a minimum but the front soundstage is very full and rich. Dialogue is always clear and the musical numbers pop with energy.
The disc is a full blown special edition and it's crowning feature is a screen specific commentary with Director Tim Hall. Hall is joined by Kermit the Frog, Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, and it is a hoot. Done a la "Mystery Science Theater 3000," with the commentators in silhouette and the movie playing in the background it is even more fun than the way the same feature was used on the Ghostbusters disc. In a lot of ways the commentary is funnier than the movie itself.
Also included are an outtake reel, kind of like the one on A Bug's Life, trailers, a music video, talent files and production notes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
For all the things I liked about Muppets From Space, the film is not a complete success. Once it gets down to the nuts and bolts of the plot, the film runs out of steam and more often than not, jokes fall flat. Plus there is the overwhelming feeling of, "been there, done that" to the proceedings. While I applaud the filmmakers for exploring different characters I don't think they went far enough in trying to reinvent the film series. Maybe they focused on the wrong characters. I was wishing the movie were more about Pepe and Rizzo and not so much Gonzo. It certainly would have been funnier. Plus having the regulars in supporting roles makes one long to see more of them. I think the film would have been better served if Kermie and the gang were not present at all.
The inspired lunacy of the original "Muppet Show" and the first Muppet movie is missing and what we get instead is a milder, safer rehash of the same material. The feeling that anything could happen is not present and the film suffers for it.
What we have with Muppets From Space is a mixed bag. For kids the movie is a lot of fun and it's smarter than the usual kiddie fare. For adults, well, there are some laughs to be had, just not as many as Muppets past. As for the disc itself, I would be hard pressed to find any faults. Columbia has done another spectacular job. Watch the movie itself with the kids but after they have gone to bed switch over to the commentary track and get some really good laughs.
All in all, Muppets From Space is a good buy for the family to enjoy. Not a family classic like The Iron Giant, but still a lot of fun.
The Muppets brain trust is released but ordered to put more thought into their next effort and Columbia is once again thanked by the court for some wonderful product.
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Scales of Justice
• Live Video Commentary with Kermit, Gonzo, Rizzo and Director Tim Hall
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