Muppets from Space is a 1999 American science fiction family 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. The film is a deviation of other Muppet films as it is the only non-musical film, as well as the first film in the series with a plot to focus predominantly on a character other than Kermit the Frog. It is also the last Muppet feature film to have the involvement of Frank Oz; he would retire from Muppet performing the following year.[3] The film was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina at EUE/Screen Gems in 1998.

Plot

The Great Gonzo has always been identified as a "whatever"; but, after having disturbing dreams of abandonment and rejection, he begins to realize just how alone he is in the world. One of his nightmares involves his being denied entry onto Noah's Ark by Noah. The next morning, Gonzo tells Kermit the Frog that he is getting tired of being referred to as a "whatever." After an alien race appears to be trying to send him a message through his bowl 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.

Unable to convince Kermit and his friends of the aliens' existence, Gonzo is lured by Agent Barker into the clutches of K. Edgar Singer of C.O.V.N.E.T., a government organization disguised as a cement factory. Singer has also taken note of the aliens' attempts to communicate and thinks that Gonzo is his key to convincing his superiors that aliens do in fact exist. Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat are taken to C.O.V.N.E.T. by an agent. Rizzo's antics cause himself to be flushed down a tube by a man in black (Hollywood 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, alongside other Muppet rats. After Miss Piggy interrogates Baker, she, Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Pepe the King Prawn, and Animal go to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo from C.O.V.N.E.T., using such inventions as a door in a jar, a rubber duck that sprays invisibility spray, and mind control gas from Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker.

A talking sandwich asks Gonzo where the alien ship can land, and Gonzo suggests Cape Doom (a beach), unaware that Agent Rentro (Bobo The Bear) is listening. At the military base, the gang arrives to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo. While on their rescue, everyone uses invisible spray but eventually becomes visible when Fozzie washes his hands upon exiting the restroom as Animal is unleashed upon a female guard. Rizzo frees Gonzo from the dissection table while the rats attack Dr. Phil Van Neuter, where Singer and General Luft witness the attack. Feeling that his time has been wasted, Luft leaves angrily. When Singer discovers Gonzo's escape, he has Rentro prepare the Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer to use on the aliens and heads to his car. When Rentro informs him that the car has been impounded due to the parking tickets that Rentro forgot to take care of, Singer and 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 shows up and tries to kill the aliens, but thanks to Rentro (who has disabled his Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer), he is unable and is laughed at. Gonzo considers going into space with his long-lost family but chooses not to. While grateful for his family for going through the trouble of locating and visiting him on Earth, he decides to stay with his fellow Muppet Show cast-mates. Singer is invited by the aliens to go with them and leaves as Earth's ambassador.

As the Muppets are 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

Muppet performers

In addition, Whitmire, Boyd, Kennedy, Linz, and Drew Massey made on-screen cameos as hippies at Cape Doom.

Cameos

Production

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 most of the filming, Peter Linz, John Kennedy, and Rickey Boyd performed his characters. Their voices can be heard in several scenes used in the film's theatrical trailer, as well as the blooper reel.

The film would mark the first appearance of Scooter since Muppet Vision 3D (1991). He was voiced by Adam Hunt (brother of Scooter's initial performer Richard Hunt).

Writing

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.Script error: No such module "Unsubst". 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".[5]

In a 2009 interview, co-writer Joey Mazzarino revealed that he left the project before shooting started, and stated: "We were working with a director, Randal Kleiser, who had directed Grease, one of my favorite movies. We got the green light, it was Jerry Juhl’s script, and they asked me to do a pass, and I wrote a very parody-heavy script. We parodied Men in Black, Contact, Alien, and we were very close to shooting. Then I got a panicked call from Henson saying that they were firing Randal. They said, 'We don’t feel like he’s bringing enough vision.'... So they flew me out to LA to pick a new director, and we picked a director who was a very nice guy, and he did a decent job, but he wanted to get rid of all the parody stuff."[6]

Mazzarino disliked the ending of the film, and explained that in his draft Gonzo did not turn out to be an alien. The aliens were getting signals from episodes of The Muppet Show and made themselves to look like Gonzo as they considered him to be the "ultimate being." In the end, they would reveal their hideous forms, and Gonzo would remain a "whatever", with his true family being the Muppets.[6]

Music

Muppets from Space was the first Henson musical film to not feature original music, opting instead for a soundtrack consisting 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, recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound in Sheffield, Alabama. 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 "Flash Light (Spaceflight)".

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 Jamshied Sharifi with additional work by Rupert Gregson-Williams and released by Varèse Sarabande.

Earlier drafts of the film contained 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

According to Brian Henson, the film was planned by The Jim Henson Company to be released in the winter, around February 2000, However, 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 Walt Disney Pictures' Inspector Gadget.Script error: No such module "Unsubst".

Box office

Muppets from Space grossed $22.3 million worldwide against its $24 million budget.[7][2]

Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 63% based on 56 reviews. The site's consensus reads "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."[8]

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."[9] Conversely, 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."[10]

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."[11]

References

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  4. http://www.muppetcentral.com/articles/tributes/kristina.shtml
  5. (2003) Muppets From Space DVD "Production Notes" bonus feature.
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External links

Template:Tim Hill Template:Muppet films

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