Muppets from Space

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Muppets from Space
Muppets from space.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tim Hill
Produced by Brian Henson
Martin G. Baker
Written by Jerry Juhl
Joey Mazzarino
Ken Kaufman
Starring Dave Goelz
Steve Whitmire
Bill Barretta
Frank Oz
Jeffrey Tambor
F. Murray Abraham
David Arquette
Josh Charles
Hollywood Hogan
Ray Liotta
Andie MacDowell
Music by Jamshied Sharifi
Cinematography Alan Caso
Edited by Richard Pearson
Michael A. Stevenson
Production
  company
Jim Henson Pictures
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • July 14, 1999 (1999-07-14)
Running time 87 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $24 million[1]
Box office $22,323,612[1]

Muppets from Space is a 1999 American science fiction comedy film and the sixth feature film to star The Muppets, and the first since the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson to have an original Muppet-focused plot. The film was directed by Tim Hill, produced by Jim Henson Pictures, and released to theaters on July 14, 1999 by Columbia Pictures, being the last theatrical Muppet film released before The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of the franchise. The film is a deviation from other Muppet films as it is the only non-musical film, as well as the first film in the series that focuses mainly on a character other than Kermit the Frog. The film was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina at EUE/Screen Gems.

Plot[edit]

The Great Gonzo has always been classified as a "whatever". But after he begins to have disturbing dreams of abandonment and rejection, he begins to realize just how alone he is in the world. One of his nightmares involves him being denied entry onto Noah's Ark by Noah (F. Murray Abraham). The next morning, Gonzo tells Kermit the Frog that he is getting tired of being called a "whatever." After an alien race appears to be trying to send him a message through bowls of cereal, Gonzo realizes that he may not be so alone after all and climbs to the rooftop to start watching the sky. Using a bolt of lightning, Gonzo communicates with a pair of cosmic fish, revealing to him that he is an alien from outer space.

When Kermit and his friends refuse to believe him, Gonzo is lured into the clutches of K. Edgar Singer (Jeffrey Tambor) of C.O.V.N.E.T., a government organization disguised as a cement factory, who has also taken note of the aliens' attempts at communication and thinks that Gonzo is his key to convincing his superiors that aliens do in fact exist. Gonzo, along with Rizzo the Rat, are arrested by C.O.V.N.E.T. Agents and Agent Rentro (Bobo the Bear). Rizzo's antics causes himself to be flushed down a tube by the Man in Black (Hulk Hogan). Rizzo ends up having to go through C.O.V.N.E.T.'s rat training and medical research held by Dr. Tucker (David Arquette) alongside the other rats like Bubba the Rat, Shakes the Rat, Fast Eddie, Troy, and The Bird Man. After Miss Piggy had interrogated Agent Baker (Josh Charles), she, Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Pepe the King Prawn, and Animal spring into action to rescue Gonzo from C.O.V.N.E.T. using inventions such as a door in a jar, a rubber duck that sprays invisibility spray, and mind control gas from Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker which Miss Piggy uses on a gate guard (Ray Liotta).

A talking sandwich asks Gonzo where the alien ship can land, and Gonzo suggests Cape Doom (a beach) as Agent Rentro. At the military base, the gang arrive to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo. While on their rescue, everyone uses invisible spray but eventually become visible when Fozzie washes his hands upon exiting the restroom as Animal is unleashed upon a female guard (Kathy Griffin). Rizzo frees Gonzo from the dissection table while the rats attack Dr. Phil Van Neuter where Singer and General Luft witness the attack. General Luft leaves declaring that Singer "needs help." When Singer hears of Gonzo's escape, he has Agent Rentro prepare the Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer to use on the aliens and heads to his car. When Agent Rentro tells him that the car is impounded due to the parking tickets that Agent Rentro forgot to take care of, Singer and Agent Rentro end up taking the company car which happens to be a cement truck.

The Muppets go to Cape Doom after rescuing Gonzo and, along with a crowd of alien-happy spectators, await their arrival. The ship comes to Earth and the aliens, who all resemble Gonzo, explain that many years ago they lost him but welcome him back into the fold. Singer turns up and tries to kill the Aliens, but thanks to Agent Rentro (who has disabled his Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer by taking the part that fires the weapon), he cannot and is laughed at. Gonzo considers going into space with the Gonzo-like aliens, but he decides after meeting his long-lost family. But while he's grateful for his fellow Gonzos for going through the trouble of locating and visiting him on Earth, he can't go with them, as he wants to stay with his fellow Muppet Show castmates. Singer is invited by the aliens to go with them, and leaves as Earth's ambassador.

The film ends with the Muppets watching the stars on the roof. Gonzo tells Kermit he wonders why his family asked him to build a Jacuzzi. Pepe chuckles because he and Rizzo had pretended to be them and asked him to do it.

Cast[edit]

Muppet performers[edit]

John Kennedy, Peter Linz, and Rickey Boyd performed Oz's characters, whilst Oz dubbed the voices in post-production. Some of the Muppet performers have on-screen cameos; Steve Whitmire ("Rainbow"), Rickey Boyd, John Kennedy, Peter Linz, and Drew Massey make cameos as beach hippies.

Cameos[edit]

Production[edit]

Frank Oz was not available for most of the film's production. As a result, his characters were performed on set by other Muppet performers, with Oz later looping his voice in post production. For much of the film, Peter Linz performed Miss Piggy, John Kennedy performed Fozzie Bear and Sam Eagle, and Rickey Boyd performed Animal. Their voices can still be heard in several scenes used in the film's theatrical trailer, as well as the blooper reel.

This film would mark the first appearance of Scooter since 1990's The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. His voice was looped by Adam Hunt (brother of Scooter's initial performer Richard Hunt ) while someone else performed Scooter.

Writing[edit]

An earlier draft of the story was written by Kirk Thatcher called "Muppets in Space." In the screenplay, aliens abducted Kermit because they believed him to be their leader, leading the other Muppets to attempt to save him. A set of Welch's Jelly Glasses were produced based around this theme. According to the production notes featured on the DVD, the film was inspired by Gonzo's song in The Muppet Movie (1979), "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday".[2]

Music[edit]

Muppets from Space: Original Motion Picture Score
Soundtrack album by James Newton Howard
Released February 28, 1999
Genre Soundtrack
Label Sony
The Muppets chronology
Muppet Treasure Island: Original Soundtrack
(1996)
Muppets from Space: Original Motion Picture Score
(1999)
Best of Muppets featuring The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
(2005)

This was the first Muppet film to not be a traditional musical film with original music, opting instead for a soundtrack primarily of classic soul and funk tracks. Some tracks were remade by contemporary artists, such as "Shining Star" by the Dust Brothers featuring Jeymes, and "Dazz" by G. Love and Special Sauce. Which was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound in Sheffield, AL. The band was in the studio recording with Little Milton on the "Welcome To Little Milton" record. The band got a call from Jason Brown, their manager, while in the studio, to record a song for the movie. Will McFarlane, who was a Shoals/Malaco studio regular, and former Bonnie Raitt guitarist, played with the band on the song. Parliament's "Flash Light" was updated by George Clinton as a duet with Pepe the King Prawn named "Starlight". Two soundtracks were released featuring music from the film. One was an album containing the classic soul and funk tracks, while the other was an album containing the film's score. The film's score was composed by James Newton Howard, and released by Varèse Sarabande.

Earlier drafts of the film had more original music, including the song "Eye 2 the Sky", written and recorded by Ween, which was not included on the soundtrack. This song was intended to be sung by Gonzo. Dave Goelz had also recorded a new rendition of "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" for this film, a song which had originally appeared in The Muppet Movie. This song was also dropped, but was included on the Muppets from Space soundtrack, also sung by Gonzo.

Release[edit]

According to Brian Henson, the film was planned by the Henson company to be released in the winter, around February 2000, but Columbia wanted Muppets from Space to be one of their big summer movies, rushing production and causing there to be less advertising for the film. It also suffered competition from Inspector Gadget.

Box office[edit]

Muppets from Space was considered a box office bomb theatrically, grossing only $22.3 million worldwide against its $24 million budget.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviews for the film were mixed to positive, with a 63% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 56 reviews (though this is lower than any of the previous Muppet films, all of which have reached at least 68% favorability on that site). The site's consensus stated that "if Muppets from Space lacks the magic and wit of its cinematic predecessors, this pleasingly silly space romp is funny and clever enough to make for better-than-average family entertainment."[4]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a two star rating (out of four) and concluded his review by saying that "maybe Muppets from Space is just not very good, and they'll make a comeback. I hope so. Because I just don't seem to care much anymore."[5] On the other hand, Robin Rauzi of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review stating that "twenty years after The Muppet Movie and 30 after the beginning of Sesame Street, there is still life in these creations of felt, foam rubber and fake fur. With care, they will easily entertain and educate a third or fourth generation of children. The magic is back."[6]

In a 2000 interview, Frank Oz described the film as not "up to what it should have been," and "not the movie that we wanted it to be."[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Muppets from Space (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ (2003) Muppets From Space DVD "Production Notes" bonus feature.
  3. ^ Eller, Claudia (July 23, 1999). "On the Family Entertainment Map, Henson Co. Finds Itself at Crossroads". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  4. ^ "Muppets from Space Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  5. ^ Roger Ebert (July 14, 1999). "Muppets from Space". Chicago Sun-Times (rogerebert.com). Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  6. ^ Rauzi, Robin (July 14, 1999). "Joy, Plot Restored in 'Muppets From Space'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  7. ^ Plume, Kenneth. "Interview with Frank Oz (Part 3 of 4)". IGN. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 

External links[edit]