Muppets From Space - * *

The Muppets have seen better days, and never has the muppet candle seemed so dim as in this sixth muppet movie. The first original muppet story since The Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppets From Space is missing a crucial ingredient necessary for a successful launch: magic. A mundane muppet movie is hardly a muppet movie at all.

The story centers on Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz), who sulks, depressed and lonely because he has no family…there are no other Gonzos. He resigns to live his life in abject loneliness. But all that changes when he receives mysterious messages apparently transmitted through various foodstuffs. Gonzo comes to the realization that he is an alien, stranded on Earth, and begins an attempt to contact his fellow extra-terrestrials.

Strangely, the other muppets (who are all living together in a dilapidated old house), think Gonzo has gone completely crazy. Mostly, the muppets have other worries. Miss Piggy tries to land a glamorous new job in TV journalism, and Kermit has his froglegs full trying to keep order in the crazy muppet household.

Leave it to the evil government to take an interest in Gonzo and…well, be evil. An obsessed alien researcher named Singer (Jeffrey Tambor) plots to kidnap Gonzo and discover the secrets of his alien civilization. It is up to a ragtag group of muppets (Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, Animal, Rizzo and Pepe the Prawn) to rescue Gonzo and save the day.

Muppets From Space is the first Muppet Movie to prominently feature the new muppets from the Muppets Tonight TV show. The aforementioned Pepe the Prawn has the biggest role (alas without his partner Seymour the Elephant), but Clifford and several other new muppets make appearances as well. In fact, the film strives to pack in at least one appearance from every muppet in existence (except for the Sesame Street gang, who have their own muppet movie, Elmo in Grouchland, forthcoming.) The result is chaotic…and not in a good muppetly chaotic way.

But wait, there’s more. In addition to the plethora of muppets, the film also features a variety of guest stars. Ray Liotta, Andie MacDowell, Hulk Hogan, Rob Schneider, David Arquette and F. Murray Abraham all make appearances here and there. Mostly, they’re thankless cameos, serving little purpose other than to try and amuse the adults dragged to the film by their children.

Gonzo has always been an interesting muppet to watch. Unfortunately, for the bulk of this film, he is out of character. Gonzo is usually zany, upbeat and unpredictable. Watching a sullen Gonzo is like drinking a flat soda. The tangy edge is gone.

Children will be entertained by Muppets From Space, so the movie does fulfill its prime directive. However, adults who have previously been enchanted by the muppets will find that the magic is gone. Yes, the muppets are relatively low tech in this era of high tech whiz-bang special effects… but the problem is deeper than that. The best muppet movies imbued the muppets with a sense of wonder and awe. In Muppets From Space, they have become mere stock characters running through a routine plot.

At a time when there are too few kid-friendly movies in the theaters, Muppets From Space provides a welcome retreat. However, if you’re wanting to be entertain more than just children, look elsewhere. Muppets From Space is decidedly earthbound.

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