Thursday, November 24, 2011

Muppets From Space

Since Gonzo is my favorite Muppet, it should be absolutely no surprise that I love this movie. It is actually a large part of the reason why I decided to go against my original "no more marathons" rule, because I wanted a chance to defend the film. I've heard people say this is the lowest regarded of all the Muppet films but personally I just don't see what the problem is.

The goal of the movie is to explain exactly what kind of "whatever" Gonzo is, and of course the logical answer is that he is in fact an alien. While Jim Henson may not have been involved with this project, it's clear to me that his team knew how to carry on in his absence. There are celebrity guest stars, pop culture references, appearances by all the major Muppet characters, and tons of great humor. This is also where we meet Pepe the King Prawn for the first time, and he's a welcome addition to the group and perfect partner in crime for the sneaky Rizzo. I also really enjoyed seeing Clifford and Bean Bunny from Muppets Tonight appear even though that show had been cancelled at this point.

One of the things that sets the movie apart from a lot of the others is that it doesn't use original songs, but instead a lot of soul and funk tracks. I suppose if you somehow don't enjoy that style of music it might bother you, but frankly I'm a little worried about anyone who doesn't enjoy the sounds of James Brown or Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Beyond Pepe and our always lovable Gonzo, the best character in the movie is Bobo the Bear, playing lackey for Jeffrey Tambor. Nearly everything he says in the movie is quotable. Whether he's trying to calm Tambor down from one of his many fits or trying to comfort Gonzo before the government plans to remove his brain, he's just great. Tambor himself is also a lot of fun as the rather sensitive, angry man who has been misunderstood his whole life.

I love the scenes of Rizzo in with the other lab rats being tormented by David Arquette, and the Shawshank Redemption send up as they make their escape. The rest of the Muppets breaking in to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo are also great, from Animal chasing Kathy Griffin (who later falls for him), to Fozzie insisting on washing his hands after using the bathroom even though it removes the invisibility spray, and the "Doctor" "Doctor" exchange as they try to remain in disguise. Really, there aren't any bad scenes in the movie for me.

While it doesn't really match the tone of the earlier movies, I think that's expected given the time period.  Expecting this film or the upcoming The Muppets to be exactly the same in tone as the early films would be an unrealistic expectation.

Perhaps my only complaint is how generic Kermit is. Like Mickey Mouse before him, he's lost much of his personality to become the "oh golly" good guy leader. I suppose part of this comes from a desire to not muddy the memory of Henson himself. Or it could just be that this is supposed to be mostly Gonzo's film and therefore Kermit doesn't get much to do. 

I think the real test will be how they portray him in the new film.  I'll tell you what I think about it tomorrow!

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