Muppets From Space
Directed by Tim Hill
Review by Matt Heffernan
I basically grew up with the Muppets. I watched Sesame Street five days a week, every week, for probably four or five years. I was also a big fan of The Muppet Show, which was more adult-oriented, but still a favorite of mine as a child. These creatures with their ping pong ball eyes have entertained generations, and are now starring in their sixth feature film.
The plot of this one revolves around Gonzo, the blue-haired hook-nose character. He goes through a sort of identity crisis: he doesn't know what species he is or where he comes from. He is feeling all alone in the world since there is nobody quite like him. While he is eating breakfast one day, the letter shaped cereal spills on the table and spells out "R U THERE", followed by "WATCH THE SKY". This prompts Gonzo to stand on the roof of the house (which he shares with the rest of the Muppets) and look through the plastic telescope that he found in the cereal box. After observing all night, he is hit by a bolt of lightning (or something) and he has a vision of floating through space, where two space fish tell him that his people are coming to Earth for him. When he comes to, he goes to the local TV station and declares the coming of the aliens, whose race he is a member of.
This broadcast comes to the attention of Edgar Singer (Jeffrey Tambor), a government agent searching for extraterrestrial life. Edgar orders men to capture Gonzo and bring him back to the government lab to have him examined and interrogated. This also generates a lot of publicity, and Gonzo acquires a cult following. The Muppets come to his rescue so that he can finally meet with his "people".
Muppets From Space is fairly mediocre for a Muppet movie. Since the death of Jim Henson, the Muppets have lost their shine, not to mention the voices of several characters. Kermit the Frog just ain't the same green guy he used to be. Just like when Walt Disney died, the creative leadership has disappeared and there is no longer a solid vision.
One of the major problems is putting the character of Gonzo in the leading role, instead of the whacky comic sidekick that he usually is. Normally Kermit would fulfill this role, being the straight every-frog. Now he is relegated to a thoroughly uninteresting "friend" role, with little to do. Henson surely would not have allowed his characters to be handled this way. It just doesn't work, and the film as a whole suffers for it.
I know. I'm probably getting too deep into the characters of these simple puppets. But this film does go down a dangerous road that too many film sequels and TV spin-offs have paved. At least this is an appropriate movie to take your kids too. Unfortunately, many parents are suckered into taking their young children to see South Park. That is a very good film, but it is really for adults. If you want my opinion, just go see Tarzan.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Muppets From Space (1999)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan