Muppets from Space – BlogalongaMuppets 6

We’re nearly at the end of our BlogalongaMuppets journey and our penultimate stop is with Muppets from Space. This time round the literary adaptations have been abandoned, the Muppets are all living together and Gonzo is having an identity crisis. Just as Gonzo is wondering what he is, and where he came from, he starts to receive mysterious messages in his cereal and through his dreams suggesting an extraterrestrial connection. Naturally the government tries to kidnap Gonzo and he must escape in time to meet his relatives from beyond the stars.

This entire review could simply be a .gif of me slowly shaking my head in disgust. Muppets from Space does not feel like a Muppet movie and for the most part doesn’t even feel like a proper movie. The quality of film here is more on par with their TV-only fare like It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and is a far cry from The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. The plot is weak, most Muppets are underused and there aren’t even any proper songs. No songs in a Muppet movie, the cheek of it!

While it is nice to have Jeffrey Tambor playing the token bad guy, and his bear sidekick was a good source of humour, this does not excuse the bizarre cameo from half the cast of Dawson’s Creek (in character but without Dawson himself) and the general lack of wit or intelligence. You can have as many clever movie references as you like but these cannot save the worst Muppet outing so far.

My final complaint is just how perverted the Muppets seem to have become. Every other Muppet made a sexual advance on one human or another and I’m sure at one point it was implied that Animal had sex with Kathy Griffin’s security guard, an image none of us want planted into our mind’s eye. Can’t we be satisfied with keeping the parents amused with a clever homage to Independence Day and not reduce the Muppets to sex pests?

Muppets from Space was a real disappointment, made all the worse for following the two strongest Muppet instalments. Watching it simply wasn’t fun, and fun is what the Muppets are all about. Thankfully Rizzo and his fellow rats were there to provide me with the occasional moment of comic relief. I love those little guys so much.

I think before you answer that question you’d better be real clear on the final destination of that finger.

Only one question remains, who is taking me to see The Muppets?

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
2. Muppet Treasure Island
3. The Muppets Take Manhattan
4. The Great Muppet Caper
5. The Muppet Movie
6. Muppets from Space

Muppet Treasure Island – BlogalongaMuppets 5

I am relishing this section of BlogalongaMuppets as we are in the period of the Muppets which overlapped with my childhood. How can you not love a Muppet film if you first saw it at the age of eight?

Following on from The Muppet Christmas Carol Disney have tried to replicate that winning formula by adapting another classic novel in the unique Muppet way. This time we have a young Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) and his best friends Rizzo the Rat and The Great Gonzo, who are given a treasure map and set sail on the big blue wet thing, looking for adventure. Captaining their ship is a certain green frog and taking the role of lead famous human actor is the always entertaining Tim Curry as Long John Silver. Tim Curry plays the treacherous pirate with such relish it is a joy to watch.

All of my praise for this film is pretty much the same as that which I heaped on The Muppet Christmas Carol. The film has a tight plot, is funny throughout and is filled with catchy songs. The humour never becomes too meta and there are no cameos for cameos sake; Jennifer Saunders and Billy Connolly both give great performances at the start of the film and both have something to do beyond being a recognisable face.

The winning formula for a great Muppet film is for our felt covered friends to adapt a classic novel, have a respected British actor in the lead human role and have decent songs. Christmas Carol and Treasure Island also share the trait of not being afraid of being dark in places, the opening song in Muppet Treasure Island ends with a whole pirate crew being shot. As Rizzo said, “He died? And this is supposed to be a kids’ movie!”.

As usual I want to give a quick nod to the various Muppet rats who throughout the pirate adventure have their own sub-plot as Rizzo has a side business running a rat cruise on-board the pirate boat. There’s something about rats behaving like humans on holiday that tickles me beyond explanation. Look at their teeny clothes!

You wanna knock it off with the booze? It’s peeling the paint off of the shuffleboard court.

In short, Muppet Treasure Island is amazing and I will never tire of it. Sadly The Muppet Christmas Carol just pips it to the top spot (so far) by virtue of being a Christmas film and therefore automatically being slightly better.

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
2. Muppet Treasure Island
3. The Muppets Take Manhattan
4. The Great Muppet Caper
5. The Muppet Movie

The Muppet Christmas Carol – BlogalongaMuppets 4

Considering the fact that I was 4 when I first saw The Muppet Christmas Carol in the cinema, it isn’t hard to see why this particular Muppet film fills me with nostalgic joy every time I see it (and I’ve seen it two and a half times in the past two weeks). Taking a departure from the three preceding films, Christmas Carol does not tell a story about the Muppets themselves, instead retelling Dickens classic tale with Michael Caine as Scrooge and Muppets taking on the majority of other roles. This is the Muppets with a proper plot at last.

Holding the whole film together are The Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat as Dickens and his sidekick, acting as narrators and, in a real change for the Muppet franchise, are the only two characters to break the fourth wall and reference the fact that the film is in fact a film. Taking things far too seriously for a moment, separating the story from the endless meta jokes makes the jokes all the funnier and the story more engrossing. It can be hard to care about a character who acknowledges that what is happening to them is not really happening. Rizzo and Gonzo are a great comedic pair and the film wouldn’t work without them.

With celebrity cameos out the window, at last, instead we have an admirable performance from Michael Caine. Possibly not his finest work but he certainly isn’t slacking off in the acting department. From a horrible old man to a truly sad figure, Caine gives it his all. Shame about that dance though…

I may mock the dance, but I will happily perform it whenever anyone asks me too… or if the film happens to be on.

Another thing Christmas Carol has going for it, beyond the humour and the emotion, is that it is pretty scary at times. I’ve had more than one nightmare about Scrooge’s door knocker turning into a screaming face, and the Ghost of Christmas Past is pretty freaky too, something to do with her tiny hands. With most of the other Muppet films everything is so light and fluffy the peril is rarely perilous, here there is plenty to get behind the sofa for.

What really makes Christmas Carol the best of the franchise so far is the songs. For once the songs are fun, catchy and live on beyond the film. “One More Sleep Till Christmas” and “It Feels Like Christmas” will always be accompanied by me warbling along and forgetting most of the words. You may get the sense that watching this film with me is hell as I sing and dance along while chuckling at the childish jokes… You’re probably right but I do it all out of love for the film.

I will finish this ramble with this deleted song, a song which should appear during Scrooge’s trip to Christmas past but which Disney decided wasn’t appealing to young children. “When Love is Gone” is beautiful and its removal makes for a slightly jarring moment in the film. Silly Disney!

The Muppet Christmas Carol is amazing and I can’t imagine Christmas without it.

Light the lamp, not the rat, light the lamp, not the rat! Put me out, put me out, put me out!

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
2. The Muppets Take Manhattan
3. The Great Muppet Caper
4. The Muppet Movie

The Great Muppet Caper – BlogalongaMuppets 2

With October almost over there is just time for the second film in BlogalongaMuppets, The Great Muppet Caper. This is more of the type of Muppet film I am accustomed to, one in which the Muppets play roles in a story not simply focussing on The Muppets being The Muppets. Instead Kermit and Fozzie play newspaper reporters who travel to Britain (yay London) to investigate a jewel theft. Along the way they meet a lot of remarkably American muppets at the Happiness Hotel and Miss Piggy who is working as assistant to the fashion designer whose jewels were stolen.

This was a vast improvement on the first film; there’s much more energy and we get a proper plot to try to follow. Shame the songs still aren’t up to much, whenever I try to remember a single song from this film I get Movin’ Right Along stuck in my head instead.

While both John Cleese and Peter Falk provide memorable appearances, on the whole there are much fewer gimmicky cameos from celebrities I can’t remember. Falk in particular was a lot of fun as a tramp rambling on about an alternative back story for Kermit. In the end Kermit has to interrupt him as they are “trying to do a movie here.” Yes, it’s just as meta as before and the jokes about the film being a film are quite sophisticated. Kudos to the four writers.

Jim Henson was clearly trying to push the boundaries of puppetry again as not only is there more cycling but Miss Piggy gets an underwater dance sequence. I’d like to see Sooty do that. There’s not much more to say beyond the fact that I am at my happiest with The Muppets when the group of rats are on-screen.

The Great Muppet Caper was a lot of fun and the best of the films so far, but I know there’s better to come.

I hate to be rude, but we’re trying to do a movie here.

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Great Muppet Caper
2. The Muppet Movie

The Muppet Movie – BlogalongaMuppets 1

Like so many things I claim to love my experience of The Muppets is narrower than I realised, particularly when it comes to their earlier work. More familiar with their films of the nineties, when they moved onto film parodies/pastiches, I had never seen The Muppet Movie before I sat down to watch it for BlogalongaMuppets.

What a disappointment.

What little plot The Muppet Movie has revolves around Kermit travelling from his swamp to Hollywood, picking up Muppets along the way and evading capture from an ad man who wants the dancing frog to star in his TV commercial. There’s not a whole lot to grab hold of here, just a few disjointed and underwhelming scenes ties together with lacklustre songs about rainbows and “moving right along”.

The film is at a risk of being a little too meta, with one character forced to catch up on the plot by reading the screenplay. It’s as if we’re supposed to accept the meagre plotting because no one onscreen is pretending that this is a reality.

For a film relying so heavily on an existing knowledge of (and unconditional love for) the Muppets, The Muppet Movie lacks the energy and excitement we fell in love with in the first place. The film isn’t terrible, just not what I had been expecting. It probably doesn’t help that most of the cameos completely passed me by, at 23 am I too young to appreciate The Muppet Movie?

Most damning of all is that Kermit’s journey to Hollywood seemed to change him. Setting off from his swamp the plucky frog just wanted to make people happy, but by the time he reached Hollywood he simply asked to be rich and famous. Maybe this is a deeper film than I first thought, one about how fame and fortune corrupts? Oh Kermit, you should have stayed at the swamp.