Movie Review By Casey McCabe
Do kids still love the Muppets? There's no reason why they shouldn't, of course. But let's face it. This plucky troupe of carpet scraps are now approaching their thirties. Not only are they puppets in a digital age, they're mom and dad's puppets! So you gotta wonder: who's really dragging who to the latest Muppet movie?
That would be "Muppets From Space" and the answer is, who cares? Like other enduring entertainers, from Dr. Seuss to Bugs Bunny, the Muppets are able to wink at the adults while indulging the children. Or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, the Muppets still manage to make a G-Rating a little less intimidating for everybody.
"Muppets From Space" puts the alien back in alienation to create an easily digested life lesson. While we know that Kermit is a Frog, Fozzie is a Bear and Miss Piggy a pig, nobody knows who or what little tube-nosed Gonzo is. He appears to be the only one of his kind on Earth, and in one of many winks to the adults, Gonzo confesses that he's always had "alien tendencies." The story is Gonzo's quest to reconnect with his lost space family, discovering in the process the people who truly love him for whoever or whatever he is. Naturally, he must be rescued from paranoid government conspirators first.
The legacy of the late Jim Henson was attention to character, and while they might be fuzzy, the writing has always been sharp. Despite the title, the film is almost entirely earthbound and special effects are used gently and sparingly. Otherwise the Muppets remain stitched together the old-fashioned way. You can see the spray paint on their foam rubber noses. You might even glimpse an errant string now and then. Oddly enough it just makes the Muppets that much more believable. So there's virtually no disconnect when they chew the same scenery with Ray Liotta, Andie MacDowell, F. Murray Abraham, and Jeffery Tambor. Since its doubtful many tykes remember "Goodfellas," "Amadeus" or "The Larry Sanders Show," the ingenious human casting is further evidence that the filmmakers and actors were having a bit of fun themselves.
I'd like to tell you that kids enjoyed "Muppets From Space" as much as the adults. But the only people at my screening were hard-bitten film critics. And several of them loosened their jaws enough to laugh out loud. So I'll just have to assume today's kids can still get jiggy with the Muppets.
© 1999 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 7/14/99
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