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Muppets from Space

Muppets from Space is a 1999 American science fiction comedy film produced by Columbia Pictures and Jim Henson Pictures. The sixth feature film to star the Muppets, it is the first film since the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson to have an original Muppet-focused plot, and is a deviation of other Muppet films as it is the only non-musical film to date. The film was directed by Tim Hill from a screenplay by Jerry Juhl, Joey Mazzarino, and Ken Kaufman, and stars Jeffrey Tambor, Pat Hingle, Rob Schneider, and Andie MacDowell, alongside Muppet performers Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Bill Barretta, and Frank Oz. In the film, Gonzo attempts to discover his origins after having nightmares. After he and Rizzo the Rat are captured by government officials during his search, Kermit the Frog and the rest of the Muppet gang must save them.

Muppets from Space
Muppets from space.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTim Hill
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music byJamshied Sharifi
CinematographyAlan Caso
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed byColumbia Pictures[1]
(Sony Pictures Releasing)[2]
Release date
  • July 14, 1999 (1999-07-14)
Running time
87 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States[3]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$24 million[2]
Box office$22.3 million[2]

The film was released on July 14, 1999 by Sony Pictures Releasing. Alongside The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, it is the last Muppet feature film to have the involvement of Oz prior to his retirement from Muppet performing the following year,[4] as well as the last Muppet film written by Juhl prior to his death in 2005. It was also the last Muppets film to be released theatrically until The Muppets in 2011. The film was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina at EUE/Screen Gems in 1998.

PlotEdit

Gonzo has always been identified as a "whatever"; but, after having disturbing dreams of abandonment and rejection, including him being denied entry to Noah's Ark, he begins to realize just how alone he is in the world. One day, Gonzo tells Kermit that he is getting tired of being referred to as a "whatever." After an alien race appears to be trying to send him a strange mysterious message through his bowl of cereal, Gonzo realizes that he may not be so alone after all and later that evening, he climbs to the rooftop to watch the sky. Suddenly, he is struck by a bolt of lightning, which allows him to communicate with a pair of cosmic knowledge fish, who reveal his origins as 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 is aware of the aliens' attempts to communicate and thinks that Gonzo is the key to convincing his superiors that aliens do exist. Gonzo and Rizzo are taken to C.O.V.N.E.T. by Agent Barker. Rizzo's antics cause himself to be flushed down a tube by wrestling legend Hulk Hogan and 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 Barker, she, Kermit, Fozzie, Pepe, and Animal go to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo from C.O.V.N.E.T., using inventions from Bunsen and Beaker such as a door in a jar, a rubber duck that emits temporary invisibility spray, and mind control gas.

An alien channeling his voice through a sandwich asks Gonzo where the alien ship can land, and Gonzo suggests a beach known by the name of Cape Doom, unaware that Singer's assistant Agent Rentro (Bobo the Bear) is listening. The gang arrives at the military base to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo. They use the invisibility spray to enter but when Fozzie washes his hands upon exiting a restroom it wears off, attracting the attention of a female guard who Animal chases away. Meanwhile, Rizzo frees Gonzo from the dissection table while the other rats attack Dr. Phil Van Neuter, which is witnessed by Singer and General Luft. Luft feels that his time has been wasted and leaves angry. Upon discovering from Rentro that Gonzo is heading for Cape Doom, Singer prepares the Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer to use on the aliens. Rentro tells Singer that his car has been impounded because of unpaid parking tickets; they use the company car—a cement truck.

The Muppets rescue Gonzo then go to Cape Doom where a crowd of alien-happy spectators await their arrival. After an hour-long wait, the ship comes to Earth and the aliens, who all resemble Gonzo, explain that many years ago they lost him but now welcome him back into the fold. Singer shows up and tries to kill the aliens, ultimately failing to do so (Rentro removed the Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer's battery) and is laughed at. Gonzo considers going into space with his long-lost family but chooses 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 from 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.

CastEdit

Muppet performersEdit

Due to scheduling conflicts, Oz only provides the voices for his characters; on-set puppetry was provided predominantly by Peter Linz (Miss Piggy) John Kennedy (Fozzie Bear and Sam Eagle), and Rickey Boyd (Animal). In addition, Whitmire, Boyd, Kennedy, Linz, and Drew Massey made on-screen cameos as hippies at Cape Doom.

CameosEdit

ProductionEdit

For the second time since Muppet Treasure Island, 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 on the DVD.

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

The film's visual effects were provided by Illusion Arts.[5]

WritingEdit

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.[citation needed] 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".[6]

In a 2009 interview, co-writer Joey Mazzarino revealed that he left the project before shooting started, due to changes made to his draft. According to Mazzarino, Randal Kleiser was selected to direct the film, and that his draft included parodies of Men in Black, Contact and Alien. However, shortly before shooting began, The Jim Henson Company fired Kleiser from the project, with Mazzarino subsequently hiring Tim Hill as the new director of Muppets from Space, and most of the parodies from his draft were removed.[7]

Mazzarino also disliked the revised ending of the film, and explained that in his draft Gonzo did not turn out to be an alien. Instead, 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.[7]

MusicEdit

Muppets from Space: The Ultimate Muppet Trip
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedJuly 13, 1999[8]
GenreSoundtrack
Label[8]
The Muppets chronology
Muppet Treasure Island: Original Soundtrack
(1996)
Muppets from Space: The Ultimate Muppet Trip
(1999)
Best of Muppets featuring The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
(2005)

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 Studio 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 and was released by Sony Wonder, Epic Records, and Sony Music Soundtrax a day before the film's premiere,[8] 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 was released by Varèse Sarabande on August 13, 1999.[9]

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.

ReleaseEdit

MarketingEdit

To promote the film's theatrical release, Muppets from Space was accompanied with a marketing campaign with promotional tie-ins such as Wendy's and Travelodge.[10][11] For the film's home video release, the pizza restaurant chain Sbarro promoted the film with six figurines in the set along with Muppet pizza boxes and bags.[12]

Home videoEdit

On November 22, 1999, the film was released on DVD with supplemental features such as a blooper reel and an audio commentary by Kermit the Frog, Gonzo, and Rizzo.[13]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

Muppets from Space was released on July 16, 1999 in 2,265 theaters and grossed $7 million during its five-day opening frame.[14][15] At the end of its theatrical run, the film grossed $22.3 million worldwide against its $24 million budget.[2][16]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval 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."[17]

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."[18] 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."[19]

Michael Wilmington, reviewing for The Chicago Tribune, praised the puppeteers' performances, but remarked "[t]his picture isn't goofy or dreamy enough, however engaging it may be to re-encounter the intrigues of Miss Piggy, the wistfulness of Kermit or the weirdness of Gonzo. Or relax into the period funk soundtrack (including the O'Jays' "Survival," Earth, Wind and Fire's "Shining Star" and many others)."[20] Lawrence Van Gelder of The New York Times felt the "Frenetic movement and loud music overwhelm warmth and compassion, and the balance of character, plot, irreverent humor and innate decency that made some of the earlier Muppet movies so welcome is lost."[21]

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."[22]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Muppets from Space". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Muppets from Space (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  3. ^ Muppets from Space at AllMovie
  4. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (11 March 2014). "How Kermit and the Muppets Got Their Mojo Back". Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Kenneth Nakada VFX". nakadavfx.com. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  6. ^ (2003) Muppets From Space DVD "Production Notes" bonus feature.
  7. ^ a b Hennes, Joe (February 25, 2009). "A Chat with Joey Mazzarino, part 2". toughpigs.com. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c McCormick, Moira (July 3, 1999). ""Muppets From Space" Soundtrack Ready To Touch Down". Billboard. p. 68. Retrieved April 8, 2019 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ "Muppets From Space [Original Motion Picture Score]". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  10. ^ Hernadez, Greg (May 28, 1999). "Fast-Food Promotional Wars Heading Into a Furious Summer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  11. ^ "Travelodge Hotels, Inc. Takes Home Top Awards". Breaking Travel News. January 26, 2000. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  12. ^ Chapman, Cindy (November 21, 1999). "Sbarro restaurants release Muppet toys". Muppet Central News. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  13. ^ Hettrick, Scott (November 19, 1999). "Muppets, A Thriller and Oz". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  14. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for July 16–18, 1999". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  15. ^ Natale, Richard (July 19, 1999). "'Eyes' Sees Its Way to Top Spot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  16. ^ Eller, Claudia (July 23, 1999). "On the Family Entertainment Map, Henson Co. Finds Itself at Crossroads". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  17. ^ "Muppets from Space Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  18. ^ Roger Ebert (July 14, 1999). "Muppets from Space". Chicago Sun-Times. rogerebert.com. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  19. ^ Rauzi, Robin (July 14, 1999). "Joy, Plot Restored in 'Muppets From Space'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  20. ^ Wilmington, Michael (July 14, 1999). "'Muppets from Space' Could Use a Hand". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  21. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence (July 14, 1999). "FILM REVIEW; Close Encounters of a Gonzo Kind". The New York Times. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  22. ^ Plume, Kenneth. "Interview with Frank Oz (Part 3 of 4)". IGN. Retrieved 27 November 2011.

External linksEdit