A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 110 – Muppets from Space

Muppets from Space – June 18th, 2010

Continuing on our space theme (which will be interrupted tomorrow and Sunday for a special event) leading up to new Futurama episodes and therefore the Futurama movies, we’re watching a movie that doesn’t take place in space, but does indeed have aliens! It’s also got a space ship, cosmic knowledge fish, some fantastic lines, some great newer Muppets, awesome music, plenty of callbacks to the older Muppet movies and show and explains a long-time mystery.

My only real problem with this movie is that the mystery it explains is one I never really needed to know an answer to. I mean, who cares if Gonzo’s a weirdo, a whatever, an alien or just one of the prime examples of “Muppet weirdness”? Look around at the Muppets. Sure, the vast majority of them are recognizable animals, but some? Not so much. Manah Manah and the Snowths? Sweetums? Marvin Suggs’ poor little Muppaphone singers? Elmo? What are they? Who cares. They exist in this world of Muppet creatures that encompasses monsters and whatevers along with the frogs and chickens and pigs and dogs and rats and prawns and catfish and dragons (and Animal). But this isn’t a midichlorians type of deal here. No one’s killing the magic. So it’s cool.

Really, I love this movie. I didn’t need to learn about how Gonzo’s an alien whose fellows lost him on Earth years ago and have been trying to find him again, but there are a lot of things I don’t need but enjoy anyhow. It’s like unplanned ice cream. And this ice cream has been sprinkled with awesome instead of jimmies.

Some examples of the awesome would be in the performances and lines. This movie is full of bits we reference and are continuously amused by. I will publicly admit to quoting Miss Piggy’s “Oh oh oh! I have to pee!” line now and again. And her “Isthatallyagot?!” from her kickass fight with a secret agent. There are a couple of video games Andy plays (Dragon Age comes to mind, or at least I think I’m remembering it correctly) where one of the bits of battle dialogue from one character is “Is that all you’ve got?!” and I can never not think of Piggy’s delivery. We routinely use the “Bring me the remote.” “The GOAT?” “The reMOTE!” exchange when at home. And my livejournal has an icon with Pepe’s donkey quote.

Speaking of Pepe the King Prawn, let me take a moment and point out that there are several newer and awesome Muppets in this movie. Pepe himself is my favorite, with his raspberry flopovers and his singing with George Clinton during the closing credits. But there are a few others, Bobo the Bear (here named Rentro) in particular. It’s nice to see cameos of Rowlf and the Electric Mayhem, but it’s also nice to meet fun newer characters as well. Ones who fit right into the bizarre and chaotic household that the Muppets have in this movie.

See, in this one, as in the others, we sort of start out with a somewhat different premise that puts the Muppets into the “real” world. In this one they all live in a big ramshackle house together in some sort of performance-driven circus commune. Kermit’s said to be on vacation, but otherwise the house is full of Muppets coming and going. The Electric Mayhem cover a Bar Mitzvah Gonzo was supposed to be entertaining at and Piggy, as in the other movies, has found herself a somewhat menial job which she hopes will allow her to rocket up the ranks to stardom. In this one she’s the “coffee pig” at a television station but claims to her housemates that she’s a big-shot television journalist. And she gets her break when the real star journalist is stuck at the airport and a big story comes in.

What’s the big story? Gonzo shows up, claiming that he’s an alien and his alien brothers are sending him messages through his breakfast cereal, asking if he’s there. He says he is and wants to make contact. Alas, he makes contact with a secret government agency headed by Jeffrey Tambor instead. Tambor is the standout human performer in this. Sure, there are other cameos, like Ray Liotta, Hulk Hogan and Kathy Griffin, but Tambor’s got a starring role and he is fantastic as the alienated (get it?) Edgar Singer, who’s always felt like a freak for believing in life from outer space. With Gonzo in custody, he thinks he’s finally got his proof and the Muppet crew has to break into the facility he’s in and rescue him from Singer so he can get to the beach he told the aliens to meet him at. It’s all done in typical rambling Muppet fashion, with plenty of jokes and mishaps and loose jell-o and in the end everything turns out great, even for Singer, who gets his very own cape and Star Trek reference.

So yeah, the plot is fun, but what makes the movie are the great throwaway lines and the fantastic performances (seriously, Tambor’s screamed DON’T! LAUGH! AT ME! is one of the best deliveries in any Muppet movie ever), the references to older material like a repeat of Beaker’s “sadly temporary” meeps, and all the funk.

Oh yes, the funk. The entire soundtrack to this movie is funk. From the outstanding rendition of Brick House done by the entire household in the beginning to the aforementioned Pepe and George Clinton duet over the credits (which are also awesome visuals – kaliedescope images of various muppets), the music is awesome. We own the soundtrack and this reminds me I need to add it to my iPod right away. It makes great musical interludes and great incidental music and let’s face it, the Electric Mayhem always gave a funky vibe so it fits right in.

Really, what I love is that the movie took a lot of the old Muppet stuff and brought it into a new movie, post-Jim, and kept it feeling just right. Sure, it’s doing the whole Gonzo’s origins thing, but it’s doing it with respect for the old and enthusiasm for the new.

June 18, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Muppets From Space

June 18, 2010

Muppets From Space

It’s a running gag in the old Muppet Show that nobody really knows what Gonzo is. In Great Muppet Caper when he and Kermit and Fozzie are being shipped to England to investigate some jewel heists Kermit’s crate is labeled FROG and Fozzie’s says BEAR, but Gonzo’s is emblazoned with the title WHATEVER. In The Muppet Movie Kermit soliloquises that Gonzo is kind of like a turkey, but not quite. In the Liberace episode of the show Gonzo likewise tries to convince Liberace’s bodyguard that he is a turkey (“have you ever seen one of my acts?”) This is the movie that finally answers the question of just what Gonzo exactly is.

It’s also my favorite of all the post-Jim Henson Muppet movies, and it rivals the first three Muppet Movies in my heart. For several reasons. After Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island this is the first Muppet movie that is an original property rather than being derived from another work. It also does NOT tell the story of how the Muppets first met, instead it shows an all new story that starts out with all the Mupets living together in a big dilapidated house in Florida. It also features an expanded role for one of my favorite new Muppet performers, Bill Baretta. He stole the Treasure Island movie as Clueless Morgan, but here as both Bobo the Bear and Pepe the Prawn he really demonstrates a great sense of humour and comic timing, and he gets a lot more screen time, which I quite enjoyed. (Supposedly the part of Rentro – the government bad guy’s sidekick – was written for a human actor but given to Bobo after an “audition” and it was clearly the right choice to make.) Oh, and I also love Brian Henson as Phil Van Neuter, the mad scientist from Muppets Tonight making a return appearance.

Furthermore it has a must-buy awesome funk soundtrack. Rather than have the Muppets sing songs in this movie there are a bunch of great classic songs used as incidental music to bring life to certain scenes. Particularly noteworthy is the fantastic opening number – Brick House by the Commadores – which introduces the extended Muppet family and their home. Or Pepe and George Clinton singing a strange muppetish rendition of Flashlight over the closing credits. Man. I’m going to listen to the soundtrack again right now while I finish writing my review.

Also of note is the fantastic performance by Jeffrey Tambor as Ed – the obsessed head of a government agency bent on proving the existence of aliens on Earth. Sure there are a ton of human cameo appearances in this move (as in any Muppet movie) but only Tambor has the acting chops and over-the-top flare to almost be a Muppet himself. His amazing delivery of the one line “Don’t. Laugh. At. Me!” still cracks both me and Amanda up. He makes such a strange and fun straight man, so it’s a treat to see him in any role. (Much less successful is a very odd Dawson’s Creek crossover.)

The plot is just a simple framework to hang all the jokes on. Gonzo feels alone and isolated because he doesn’t know what exactly he is. He doesn’t feel like he has a place in the world. Then he gets a message in his breakfast cereal one morning telling him to watch the skies. Also watching the skies is Covnet – an evil government operation that knows aliens are coming to Earth. When Gonzo is compelled to appear on local cable television and explain to the world his alien origins Covnet sends agents to kidnap him (and his pal Rizzo.) Then it’s up to all the other Muppets to break in and rescue him, so he can get to a meeting he’s arranged with his extra-terrestrial family. With plenty of Muppet weird stuff thrown in along the way.

I love all the little nods to previous Muppet projects (like the invisibility spray being “sadly temporary,” or like cameos by Sal and Johnny and Clifford, or the pictures on the mantel with all the Muppet families from the old show and Muppets Tonight.) And the movie is so full of quotable little moments that it has become part of our daily routine here. Any time we can’t find a remote control we quote Bobo and Ed’s exchange: “The goat?” “The REMOTE!” And I love all the jokes that most kids wouldn’t get, from references to other movies like Independance Day to slightly risque stuff like Bunsun Honeydew hitching a ride in a psychadelic van and saying as he disembarks “So long, Rainbow! Stay groovy!”

All in all a great, funny, and very Muppet experience. Proof that the Muppet performers still have the flare and style that made the Muppets great in the first place. How I wish there were more movies like this.

June 18, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment