A few weeks ago our friend Rachel posted another great review in her countdown to Muppets Most Wanted. If you haven't already, you can watch her take on 1999's Muppets from Space here.
Rachel hits all the right beats, in her examination of the film, and correctly points out the standouts of the film are Pepe and Bobo. She barely mentions Clifford though, who I feel is a very welcome addition to the film.
In Muppets From Space, Clifford returns to his cool Jim Henson Hour persona after audiences didn't quite dig his more amped up Muppets Tonight vibe. He's great in this film, fits in well, and has a few memorable scenes and one liners. It's just a shame he wasn't utilized more. This is mostly due to his performer, Kevin Clash, performing Frank Oz's characters, much like he did for the previous two features.
Which brings me to the real reason Muppets From Space suffers in comparison to the other Muppet features. It's just so .. stiff! With Frank Oz overdubbing his character's voices in post production, there was no room for the spontaneity or improvisation that makes the Muppets feel alive. What was in the script HAD to be said or else the dialogue wouldn't match the characters mouth movements. In fact, there are a few cases where they obviously DID change some lines afterward and it's painfully obvious.
There are a couple Easter eggs in the film that Rachel didn't cover that I think should be addressed.
The first, Rachel hinted at when she mentioned the production being rushed. This was due to the fact the they were shooting not one Muppet movie, but two Muppet movies back-to-back for summers releases. Two you ask? Yep two.
You see, Muppets From Space was shot in North Carolina near where Dawson's Creek was filmed (hense their cameo) and after shooting wrapped, most of the cast and crew stayed to film Elmo in Grouchland. Sony figured hey, we have the studio and Henson own both properties let's save some time and more importantly, money by shooting these two back-to-back. Needless to say I don't think MFS or EIG does either franchise any favors with EIG, bombing even worse then MFS would a few months earlier.
Rachel also mentioned that movie would have been better if it were a sci-fi spoof, which it sort of is, but it's more of a sci-reference movie then full on spoof. She notes the Independence Day spoof with Phil Van Nueter, but misses quite a few others.
The henchmen tasked with brimming Gonzo and Rizzo to C.O.V.N.E.T.? They're Men in Black get it?, yeah I know its not that funny.
The Cosmic Fish that seem to babel? They're a nod to the Babel Fish from Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy".
The mash potato Gonzo sculpture? It's right out of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
And, while not a true sci-fi film, Pepe's "Build it, and they will come" line, is a direct reference to the Kevin Costner film "Field of Dreams."
Another great eater egg, is in the breakfast scene immediately following "Brick House." You hear the characters saying good morning to each other, and Bunsen says "Good Morning , Baab." to a what is basically a random lamb. Why a random lamb, and not an already established character?
The reason is the person under the lamb. That person is 11-year old Kristina Donnelly, who was terminally ill and her dream was to be in a Muppet movie. The Make-A-Wish Foundation made her dream come true and when given the choice between puppeteer or actress, she chose puppeteer, performed Baab and got a shout out in the scene. At the end of filming she got to keep Baab as well as a couple of other mementos from the set.
So while Muppets From Space my not be the greatest Muppet movie,it has Clifford, some great Pepe and Bobo moments, a few references for adults, it got to make a dream come for a dying child, and did I mention it has Clifford!