|Muppets from Space|
|Directed by||Tim Hill|
|Based on||The Muppets|
by Jim Henson
|Music by||Jamshied Sharifi|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$22.3 million|
Muppets from Space is a 1999 American science-fiction comedy film directed by Tim Hill (in his feature film directorial debut) and written by Jerry Juhl, Joseph Mazzarino, and Ken Kaufman. The sixth theatrical film in The Muppets franchise, it is the first Muppets film to not be a musical and the first film since the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson to have an original Muppets-focused plot. In addition to the Muppet performers, the film stars Jeffrey Tambor, F. Murray Abraham, David Arquette, Josh Charles, Hollywood Hogan, Ray Liotta, and Andie MacDowell. 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.
The film was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1998, and was released in the United States on July 14, 1999 by Sony Pictures Releasing under its Columbia Pictures label. Alongside The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, it is the last Muppets feature film to have the involvement of Frank Oz prior to his retirement from Muppet performing the following year. It is also the last Muppet film written by Juhl prior to his death in 2005, the last Muppets film to be released theatrically until The Muppets in 2011, and the last theatrically released Muppet film to be produced by The Jim Henson Company before the franchise was acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2004.
Gonzo has always been identified as a "whatever"; but, after having 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.
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 message through his bowl of cereal, Gonzo realizes that he may not be alone after all and later that evening, he climbs to the rooftop of the Muppet boarding house 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.
Hoping to contact the aliens, Gonzo makes an impromptu appearance at the television studio for UFO Mania, where Miss Piggy works. Unable to convince Kermit and his friends of the aliens' existence, Gonzo is lured by Agent Barker to K. Edgar Singer of C.O.V.N.E.T., a top secret national security facility whose mission is to investigate threats of extraterrestrial attacks while disguised as a cement factory. Singer is aware of the aliens' attempts to communicate and, having seen Gonzo on television, believes that he is the key to convincing his superior General Luft that aliens exist.
Gonzo and Rizzo are taken to C.O.V.N.E.T., where Hulk Hogan, who is working for C.O.V.N.E.T. as an agent, flushes Rizzo down a tube to the facility's rat medical research held by Dr. Tucker, alongside other Muppet rats. Unable to get answers from Gonzo about the aliens, Singer decides to have Gonzo's brain surgically removed, and has him taken to a holding cell. Meanwhile, 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 various inventions from Bunsen and Beaker.
While Gonzo is in his cell, an alien channeling his voice through a sandwich asks him 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. Gonzo is then taken to the surgery room, and the Muppets arrive to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo.
Meanwhile, Rizzo escapes from medical research and frees Gonzo from the dissection table, while Singer and Luft witness the other rats attack the surgeon Dr. Phil Van Neuter. Luft feels that his time has been wasted and angrily leaves. Upon discovering from Rentro that Gonzo is heading for Cape Doom, Singer prepares the Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer weapon to use on the aliens. Singer and Rentro then head to Cape Doom.
The Muppets rescue Gonzo from the facility, then arrive at Cape Doom where a crowd of alien believers 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. Singer shows up and tries to kill the aliens, ultimately failing to do so (Rentro having removed the weapon's battery) and is laughed at. Gonzo considers going with his long-lost family to their home planet, but chooses to stay on Earth with the Muppets with his family's blessing. Singer is invited by the aliens to go with them and leaves as Earth's ambassador.
Later that night, Gonzo and the other Muppets watch the stars from the boarding house roof.
Additionally, Whitmire, Kennedy, Linz, Massey, and Rickey Boyd make on-screen cameos as hippies at Cape Doom.
For the second time since Muppet Treasure Island (1996), 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, with Linz performing Miss Piggy, Boyd performing Animal and Kennedy performing Sam Eagle and Fozzie Bear. Kennedy and Linz's voices can be heard in the film's theatrical trailer.
Muppets from Space would mark the first appearance of Scooter since the theme park attraction Muppet*Vision 3D (1991). His voice was performed by Adam Hunt, the brother of Scooter's initial performer Richard Hunt.
The film's visual effects were provided by Illusion Arts.
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. 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".
In a 2009 interview, co-writer Joseph Mazzarino revealed that he left the project before shooting started, due to changes made to his draft of the screenplay. Mazzarino stated that his draft included parodies of Men in Black, Contact and Alien, and that Randal Kleiser had been selected to direct the film. However, shortly before shooting began, The Jim Henson Company fired Kleiser, as they felt he was not "bringing enough vision", with Mazzarino subsequently hiring Timothy Hill as the new director of Muppets from Space, and the parodies from his draft were removed, as Hill wanted the film to be "more real".
In addition, Mazzarino disliked the revised ending of the film, as 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 look like Gonzo, as they considered him to be the "ultimate being". In the end, they would reveal their true forms, and Gonzo would remain a "whatever", with his family being the Muppets.
|Muppets from Space: The Ultimate Muppet Trip|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||July 13, 1999|
|The Muppets chronology|
Muppets from Space was the first Muppet 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. The first album, Muppets from Space: The Ultimate Muppet Trip, consisted of the classic soul and funk tracks featured in the film and was jointly released by Sony Wonder, Epic Records, and Sony Music Soundtrax a day before the film's premiere, while the other was an album containing the film's score, which was composed by Jamshied Sharifi with additional work by Rupert Gregson-Williams. This album was released by Varèse Sarabande on August 13, 1999.
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. Gonzo's performer 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 (1979). This song was also dropped, but was included on the Muppets from Space soundtrack, also sung by Gonzo.
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. From May 17 to May 21, 1999, Wheel of Fortune had a theme called "Wheel Goes to the Movies" which featured a prize on the Wheel that included a four day trip to Los Angeles for the world premiere of Muppets from Space. For the film's home video release, the pizza restaurant chain Sbarro promoted the film with six figurines in a set, along with Muppet pizza boxes and bags.
On October 26, 1999, the film was released on VHS and DVD with supplemental features such as a blooper reel and an audio commentary by Kermit the Frog, Gonzo, Rizzo, and director Tim Hill. It was released alongside The Muppets Take Manhattan on a double feature DVD by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on June 9, 2008. The film received a Blu-ray release on August 16, 2011 also alongside The Muppets Take Manhattan, with all of the special features from the DVD included.
Muppets from Space was released on July 16, 1999 in 2,265 theaters and grossed $7 million during its five-day opening frame. At the end of its theatrical run, the film grossed $22.3 million worldwide against its $24 million budget, making it commercially unsuccessful.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 63% based on 57 reviews, with an average score of 6.17/10. 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."
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." 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."
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)." 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."
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."