MUPPETS FROM SPACE is a genuinely funny, toe-tapping family movie, one of the best family movies in what has been, so far, a dreary year for family movies. It successfully recaptures the zaniness of the old TV series from the 1970s. It also provides a mostly wholesome experience, despite some minor content problems.
The movie opens with a rousing, hilarious tour of the Muppets’ multi-level house as what seems like hundreds of small and medium-sized creatures wake up and get ready to meet the day. Naturally, there’s a really long line at the bathroom door, but that doesn’t stop Animal, who barges right into the room. When he arrives, however, every available space is taken up by someone else. For instance, a bunch of penguins are hogging the bubbles in one of the bathtubs, and a little shrimp named Pepe (“I am not a shrimp! I am a king prawn!”) is using one of the faucets in the sink. Meanwhile, Rizzo the Rat is using the bar on a mousetrap to build his biceps while he looks at a picture of “The Mice Girls.”
Rizzo’s roommate is Gonzo, on whom the story of the movie focuses. Gonzo is having bad dreams about being turned away from Noah’s Ark because there’s only one of him. Where are “his” people, poor Gonzo wonders. “I don’t even know where I come from or who I am,” he says. Kermit the frog, the leader of the Muppets, replies, “You’re distinct,” but Kermit’s reply does not satisfy Gonzo.
In answer to his question, however, Gonzo sees his alphabet cereal magically form the words, “R U there?” Even the rocks on Stonehenge in England ask the question. Gonzo’s cereal also tells him to “Watch the sky.” As he’s doing just that on the roof, a flash of strange lightning takes him to Outer Space. There among the stars, he meets some weird fish creatures who claim to have “cosmic knowledge.” They also claim to be “highly evolved,” though they act a little stupid. The fish tell Gonzo to send a message back, something his people, who are aliens, can see. So Gonzo mows the lawn to spell the letters, “I am here.”
Gonzo’s message attracts the attention of an evil government agent named Singer, played by actor Jeffrey Tambor. Gonzo also goes on a TV show about UFOs, where Miss Piggy has managed to connive her way into being a substitute host. At the TV studio, government agents dressed like “Men in Black” kidnap Gonzo and Rizzo the rat. Singer takes Gonzo to a mad surgeon to have his brain sucked dry and places Rizzo in a cage with a bunch of prison-hardened lab rats. Meanwhile, Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang go to rescue their friends so that Gonzo can rendezvous with his alien people.
The most entertaining sections of MUPPETS FROM SPACE are the opening sequence in the Muppet house, Miss Piggy’s adventures with Gonzo as a UFO reporter, Rizzo’s encounter with the lab rats, and Gonzo’s rendezvous with his alien people. Although Gonzo is the center of attraction, most of the main Muppet characters (except for Big Bird, the Cookie Monster, Bert, and Ernie) get plenty of screen time. Even my personal favorites, the Swedish chef and the two old men who argue all the time, get their due. Nearly stealing the show, however, is the new character, Pepe the king prawn, who’s voiced by Bill Barretta with a Caribbean accent. Pepe is very funny and has many of the best lines in the show.
Despite some minor politically correct, pagan elements about self-esteem and cultural identity, MUPPETS FROM SPACE contains positive moral messages. For instance, the Muppets learn to face physical danger and evil to rescue their friends. They also learn about the importance of listening to, caring for and standing by your friends, even in the midst of apparent failure. Ultimately, the movie contradicts its earlier scenes regarding Gonzo’s search for cultural identity. In the end, Gonzo finds out that cultural identity isn’t everything. That’s a good (but perhaps too subtle) message for this politically correct age where cultural identity, including racial, ethnic and sexual identity, have become all-important, more important even than truth. Of course, truth always transcends race, sex, ethnicity, and economic status.
Mostly, however, MUPPETS FROM SPACE is just a chance to spend an entertaining time with some silly, goofy characters. It also provides lots of enjoyable music, mostly popular funk tunes like “Celebration” from the 1970s, the nostalgic decade of the 90s.
Moral worldview with some minor politically correct, pagan elements about self-esteem & cultural identity; 2 very mild obscenities ("heck") & 1 mild exclamatory profanity ("Good Lord!"); mild slapstick violence & threats with gun; no sex but Miss Piggy does her Mae West schtick; no nudity; no alcohol; no smoking or drugs but Miss Piggy uses scientist's perfume concoction to make people friendly; and, some mild & borderline problems such as poker gambling, kidnapping, getting angry, aliens move objects around by unseen magical force, comment about always having "alien tendencies" covertly spoofs homosexual political correctness (some children & adults may not get the intent behind the joke, however), Gonzo dreams of being turned away by Noah from the Ark, & odd mention of evolution ("cosmic knowledge" fish say they're "highly evolved" but act stupid, thereby perhaps spoofing Darwin & New Age believers).