Movie Review: Muppets from Space (1999)

Welcome to Muppet Mondays! Over the next several Mondays I will be working my way through the various movies in the Muppets and Jim Henson oeuvre.

Title: Muppets from Space
Release Date: July 14, 1999
Director: Tim Hill
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Jim Henson Pictures

If a pastiche of The X-Files, with a soundtrack full of 70s funk classics, that also acts as an unnecessary origin story for Gonzo the Great appeals to you, this movie will be your jam. For the first time since The Muppets Take Manhattan, this is an original story rather than a Muppet retelling of a classic story.  This is also the only Muppet movie ever, out of the 11 made thus far, that is not a musical, excepting some Muppetized covers of the aforementioned funk songs.

Like the other 90s Muppets movies, Gonzo (Dave Goelz) and Rizzo (Steve  Whitmire) take the lead roles.  Kermit (Whitmire) is still the leader of the Muppet family who all share a large house in this movie. Characters introduced in the short-lived 1990s tv series Muppets Tonight, Pepe the King Prawn (Bill Barretta) and Clifford (Kevin Clash) make their movie debuts. The basic plot involves Gonzo receiving messages from his alien family while a government agent, Ed Singer (Jeffrey Tambor), tries to capture Gonzo.

I noted in my review of The Muppet Movie, that The Muppets pioneered a style of self-referential, ironic humor that became widespread in the 1990s, and by the late 90s/early 2000s had really played itself out (see The Emperor’s New Groove for a notorious example). Unfortunately, the Muppets have fallen victim to the worst of 90s comical excess in this movie with cringe-worthy moments of Hulk Hogan making a threat to his wrestling foes and Katie Holmes appearing as her character from Dawson’s Creek. Rob Schneider and Andie McDowell have bigger parts in the movie which shows they were really scrapping the bottom of the barrel for human cast members.

Nevertheless, there are moments of great hilarity in this movie, and when avoiding pop culture references, Muppets from Space can be great, anarchic fun.  It is clearly the weakest of all Muppet movies, but don’t let that stop you from watching it at least once.  After it’s still the Muppets, and the Muppets on their worst day are still pretty great.

Rating: **1/2