– Muppets From Space is the least-successful of the theatrical Muppet movies, box office-wise. It was also critically panned and is among the least-favorite Muppet movies by hardcore fans (personally, I like it better than Muppet Treasure Island). I liked the movie a lot better when it came out, though now I tend to only watch it once a year. But today, I’m going to list five good things about the movie as well as five bad things.
First, here’s five good things about the movie:
1. The Muppets play themselves again
After two previous films where the Muppets played characters from existing stories, it was great to see them do a film where they play themselves again (well, besides Bobo playing “Rentro,” for some odd reason).
2. The Return of classic characters
This was the first Muppet movie to come out after Muppets Tonight ended, and that show had so much focus on new characters over old characters, so it was good to see so many classic characters who were missing on that show, even if many were just in the background. This movie featured the first new appearance of Scooter since Richard Hunt’s death, and he even had a line. Brief dialogue was also given to Dr. Teeth and Rowlf, who hadn’t spoken much since Jim Henson’s death. Today, it may not seem like much excitement to see those characters with brief dialogue, since most of Henson and Hunt’s characters have been recast with performers who have a good handle on their characters, but back then, for us fans, it was a big deal to hear them talk again, even if it’s just a word or even a grunt.
3. Integrating Muppet Show and Muppets Tonight characters
Being the first Muppet movie to feature Muppets Tonight characters, it was great to see which new characters from that show would be integrated with the classic Muppet family. Although he debuted on The Jim Henson Hour, it was great to finally see Clifford on the big screen, plus appearances by Johnny Fiama and Sal, Bobo the Bear, and Dr. Phil Van Neuter. And making Pepe one of the main characters was great (though at the time I thought it was odd that Seymour wasn’t seen at all), as Pepe easily stole the show and is one of the movie’s bright spots. Pepe has the film’s most quotable lines and many memorable scenes.
4. The boarding house
The boarding house was a great location for the Muppets in the film. Although some of the boarding house scenes could have been more “Muppet-y” and crowded, it was great seeing them all live together, from the opening “Brick House” montage to the Jacuzzi party to Muppet Labs being located in the basement.
5. The return of the Electric Mayhem Bus
For the first time since The Muppet Movie, The Electric Mayhem bus was used in the movie. It may not have been used by The Electric Mayhem (more of that in the “bad things” section), but at least it being in the movie led to the first (of very little) Electric Mayhem bus merchandise (kids meal toys for Wendy’s and, in the UK, Burger King).
And now, here are five bad things about Muppets from Space:
1. No original songs
This is similar to something I said in my article on “Five Good and Bad Things About Muppets Tonight”, that at the time, audiences weren’t interested in musical numbers, something that the Muppets were known for, so instead of having them sing original songs, they used a soundtrack of established 1970s funk tunes. The songs are good, but I’d rather the Muppets sing in the movie (well, besides The Alien Gonzo’s rendition of “Celebration,” which I wouldn’t count as a musical number since it was a concert performance to a beach crowd).
2. The Muppets don’t believe Gonzo
The Muppets are pretty much the only characters who don’t believe that Gonzo has been getting weird messages, that he’s an alien. The Muppets had previously encountered aliens many times in the past. There had been so many segments taking place on the planet Koozebane, with Koozebanian creatures (and it seems clear that, in the Muppet universe, Koozebane and its creatures are not just made-up for the sake of a show). A world where the stars of Star Wars exist, where Kermit witnessed the Sesame Street Martians land on Old MacDonald’s farm, where aliens crash-landed into the Muppet Theater. And what’s worse is that almost every human character in the movie who sees Gonzo reveal on live TV that he’s an alien believe him. Really? Humans believe Gonzo, but Muppets don’t?
3. Gonzo’s species is revealed
For years, nobody knew what Gonzo was. And now we know that he’s an alien (though it’s widely considered to be “just a movie”). Technically, they never say what his alien species is, whether he’s an alien, or even what planet he’s from.
4. Gonzo doesn’t want his brain sucked out
Gonzo often does dangerous stunts. In fact, it seems like he generally enjoys getting hurt. So when Gonzo learns that his brain is to be removed from his head, why is he so concerned? He should be happy with the fact that his brain will be taken out. But instead, he’s realistically scared about it. What gives, Gonzo?
5. Animal without the Electric MayhemI like Animal a lot better when he’s part of The Electric Mayhem than when he’s on his own (though I do enjoy the recent Lipton Tea ads, and didn’t mind him on his own for much of Muppets Most Wanted), and in this movie, Animal was one of the main seven while the rest of the band was hardly there. Okay, so maybe I was hoping/expecting the whole band to have a big part, especially since the bus was used… And speaking of the bus it’s disappointing they brought back the band’s bus but had Animal be the only member to ride in it. If they weren’t ready to give Dr. Teeth and Janice a lot of dialogue with new performers, they should have at least had Floyd be part of the main gang (especially since none of Jerry Nelson’s characters were part of the main group in this).