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(1999) (the Muppets) (G)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor None Moderate *Moderate Minor
Minor Minor Moderate Minor Minor
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Minor Minor Minor Mild *Mild

Children's/Comedy: A Muppet inadvertently involves his friends, a government operative and some extraterrestrials in his search to find his roots and real family.
In a world where humans and Muppets coexist without either believing the other to be different, Gonzo (voice of DAVE GOELZ) thinks he is. Unsure of what species he belongs to and having never known his family, Gonzo wants to discover his origins and heritage so that he can stop feeling so alone.

Of course that's only in spirit, since he lives with the rest of the Muppets including his best friend, Rizzo the Rat (voice of STEVE WHITMIRE), as well as Kermit the Frog (voice of STEVE WHITMIRE), Pepe the Prawn (voice of BILL BARRETTA), Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal (all voiced by FRANK OZ), and many others.

Gonzo gets his first break, however, when his breakfast cereal spells out the message "RU There?" and starts him out on a nightly mission of watching the skies for more signs. Unbeknownst to him, K. Edgar Singer (JEFFREY TAMBOR), a top-secret government operative, is doing the same in hopes of proving the existence of an extraterrestrial threat to mankind.

As such, when he learns that the hook-nosed Muppet is preparing for an otherworldly visit, Singer has his men nab Gonzo and Rizzo and questions them about their knowledge of any aliens. With the two apparently in danger, it's up to Kermit and the rest of the Muppets to save their friends and finally allow Gonzo the chance to meet his real family.

If they're young and/or are fans of the Muppets, it's probably a good bet they will. Older kids, however, will probably avoid this film like the plague.
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
  • While it's questionable whether kids look to nonhuman characters as role models, here's a quick look at the major characters.
  • GONZO is a daredevil (although we don't see much of that here) who no longer wants to feel as if he's alone in this world, and thus sets to find his real family.
  • RIZZO is a "wise-guy" rat who tries to help his pal, but first must break out of "rat prison" (an animal research lab) where he's been taken against his will.
  • KERMIT is the low-key, voice of reason frog who gathers everyone to help rescue Gonzo and Rizzo.
  • MISS PIGGY is the loudmouthed, prima donna pig who often uses her own style of violence to solve whatever problems come her way.
  • JEFFREY TAMBOR inhabits the only major human role and plays an increasingly paranoid and insecure government operative who will stop at nothing to prove there are aliens (and thus save his job).


    OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
    Of all the ensemble acting troupes to grace the silver screen, few -- if any -- have stuck together as long as the Muppets. While they got their unofficial start on TV with Kermit the Frog's appearance some four decades ago on "The Tonight Show" (hosted by Steve Allen) and there have been some occasional supporting cast changes, their latest effort, "Muppets From Space," marks their sixth film in twenty years of appearing together on the big screen.

    Harkening back to their earlier efforts when they played themselves (in contrast to embodying other characters in 1992's "The Muppet Christmas Carol" and 1996's "Muppet Treasure Island"), this somewhat entertaining but ultimately mediocre film is also notable for not containing their standard, sing along musical numbers.

    Instead, director Tim Hill -- who makes his feature film debut and is noted as being only the second "outsider" brought in to direct a Muppet picture -- and his trio of screenwriters, Jerry Juhl (who wrote four of the five original Muppet films), Joseph Mazzarino (TV's "Sesame Street") and Ken Kaufman (the upcoming "Space Cowboys"), opted to infuse this caper with some well-known 1970s tunes such as "Brick House," "Shining Star" and "Celebrate."

    While the film itself isn't set in that decade, the music isn't apparently present for any reason other than for its bouncy, kid-friendly beat. Of course, the Muppets' TV show and subsequent films have always had kids in mind first and foremost, although some "adult" references were always thrown in to appease the parents.

    As such, this film should succeed in pleasing its target audience of young children who don't really care about a movie's artistic qualities -- although there weren't enough children at our press screening to get a feel for how it plays to them -- but it's decidedly lacking in enough of the other material to make their adult chaperones happy.

    With its space-centered plot, the film does have some sci-fi and other movie references -- most notably concerning bits spoofing "Close Encounters," "Men in Black," "Independence Day" and a brief homage to Tim Robbins' escape in "The Shawshank Redemption." Yet, such efforts are too brief and/or weak to make them as effective as they should have been.

    Like most of the other "Muppet" movies, human cameos are also present -- including the likes of Ray Liotta, F. Murray Abraham, Andie MacDowell, David Arquette and yes, even pro wrestler, Hollywood Hogan in brief roles -- but they're all as similarly uninspired as the rest of the "adult"- oriented content.

    Despite obviously being present for the grownups, such cameos easily could have been omitted with more attention being focused on the Muppets themselves. As it stands, the film's entertainment value comes from their character driven, situational humor, but some may be surprised that the troupe's more popular creations -- such as Kermit and Miss Piggy -- are mostly relegated to supporting character status and thus don't have as much screen time as one might like or expect.

    Of course it's only fair that after so many films all of the characters would get their chance to share the spotlight. Yet, Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat are -- how shall we diplomatically say it -- not exactly strong enough characters to propel the picture from start to finish.

    While kids obviously won't mind or care about such issues, it's a little like watching a James Bond film where the story focuses on Moneypenny or Q instead of 007. Afficionados of those characters would enjoy such treatment, but most everyone else would probably only find it moderately interesting and only for a short while at that.

    Such is the case with this film. With Gonzo and Rizzo leading the way, the result is less than a thrilling or particularly entertaining experience. Whether it's because we've now grown accustomed to the Muppets playing other characters (and putting their own unique spin on them) that having them play themselves seems rather blase, or simply because of the mediocre caper- based plot, the film ends up being okay, but not as good as one would imagine or hope.

    Nonetheless, the litmus test is whether kids will enjoy it and I'd imagine that they will, particularly if they're fans of the previous Muppet films and/or aren't pint-sized film critics themselves. As such, the film gets a passing grade just for that. One only wishes, however, that the filmmakers put a little more effort into entertaining the obligatorily present adults as well. While some such material is present, it's simply not enough. For that reason, we give "Muppets From Space" a 5.5 out of 10.

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this G-rated kids comedy. As often happens with many other kid-oriented films, some scenes here may be unsettling or even frightening to younger kids. As usual, however, all of that depends on their age, maturity level and tolerance for such material.

    Some slapstick style violence and fighting are also present, with Miss Piggy fighting several human characters while others are accidently hit, bumped, shocked, etc... all for intended comic effect.

    Beyond that and a few brief entries in other categories, however, the rest of the film is mostly void of any objectionable content. Since young kids are the targeted audience, however, you may wish to take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness.

  • Rizzo and Pepe the Giant Prawn hold "tropical drinks" (complete with tiny umbrellas) as they soak in a Jacuzzi (although it's highly unlikely they're supposed to be alcoholic drinks).
  • We see some glasses of wine next to Miss Piggy and an FBI agent (who she has tied up).
  • None.
  • Singer and his henchman have some of both as the villains (in a comical sense).
  • As Gonzo mows the lawn, we hear the stereotypical screeching sound of a cat (as if it were frightened and/or hit by the mower) -- thus possibly giving kids the wrong idea about such material being associated with laughs.
  • Regarding the following listings (as in any films aimed toward young kids), the described scenes may or may not be unsettling or frightening to them, all being dependent on their age, maturity level and tolerance for such material.
  • A dream/nightmare sequence that begins with some dramatic music and thunderstorm activity might be unsettling for some kids (but it quickly turns into a spoof of Noah's Ark). Nonetheless, some kids may be upset when Noah pronounces to Gonzo (after not letting him on the Ark), "You're doomed!" and Gonzo repeatedly yelling "No!" as the rain starts.
  • Some kids may be a bit (or a lot) spooked about adult humans talking about alien invasions from outer space.
  • Gonzo is hit by a "lightning bolt" from space that may be unnerving to some kids (although it sends him on a kid-friendly, flying through outer space trip).
  • Although he's played to be a comic buffoon villain, some kids may be a bit scared of Singer (since dramatic or suspenseful music often plays whenever he's on the screen) and especially when he's menacing to Gonzo (and says that they're going to pluck his brain from his head).
  • Some kids may be unnerved and/or frightened when Gonzo is strapped to a stretcher/operating table and a human scientist/doctor prepares to use a high tech gizmo to suck out his brain (this doesn't happen and older kids will probably find all of it funny rather than scary).
  • For kids scared by the thought of aliens, a sequence where a spaceship approaches, lands and then opens (accompanied by dramatic music) may be unsettling or frightening to them.
  • Rifles/Handguns: Carried by guards and a guard aims her handgun at Fozzie.
  • Sci-fi weapon: Carried by Singer and aimed at some aliens, but the gun doesn't fire.
  • Phrases: "Freak" and "Nuts" (crazy).
  • Animal dunks his head in a toilet when he finds that the showers and sinks are all currently being used.
  • As Gonzo mows the lawn, we hear the stereotypical screeching sound of a cat (as if it were frightened and/or hit by the mower) -- thus possibly giving kids the wrong idea about such material being associated with laughs.
  • We see Fozzie with his finger up his nose (when he thinks he's still invisible).
  • The sudden and loud sound of a kitchen oven exploding may startle some viewers.
  • A moderate amount of dramatically suspenseful music occurs during the film, particularly when Singer is on the screen.
  • An old song, "Brick House," by the Commodores, has the following lyrics (that young kids won't understand, but are nonetheless present): "She's a brick, house. She's mighty mighty, just letting it all hang out. She's a brick, house. The lady's stacked and that's a fact, ain't holding nothing back..." " She knows she got everything a woman needs to get a man, yeah. How can she use, the things she use, 36-24-36, what a winning hand..." "The clothes she wears, the sexy ways, make an old man wish for younger days. She knows she's built and knows how to please. Sure enough to knock a man to his knees..." "Shake it down, shake it down, shake it down now..."
  • 1 use of "Good Lord" as an exclamation.
  • See the listing under "Music (Inappropriate)."
  • A female guard plants a big kiss on Animal and later Sam Eagle (another Muppet) stares at a human teen's bare belly (wearing a tube top or something similar) as she dances.
  • A TV producer (played by Rob Schneider) holds an unlit cigar and a guard briefly smokes a cigarette.
  • Gonzo is upset because he feels alone in the world and has never known his family (although he does finally get to meet them).
  • Gonzo's feelings that he's alone in the world (a thought that some kids may identify with).
  • UFOs and aliens.
  • The slapstick-style violence and humor.
  • Some of the following is intended to be slapstick style violence and none is meant to be taken seriously and/or at face value (and all of it is in the same mode as what appeared on the Muppets' TV show or in their other movies).
  • Gonzo accidently knocks Rizzo out their window.
  • A muppet smashes a ringing alarm clock (it breaks).
  • Miss Piggy swings open a swinging door and accidently smashes another muppet into the wall.
  • A "lightning bolt" from outer space hits Gonzo and zaps him (a mild shock). When he later touches Rizzo, the rat gets a shock as well.
  • As Gonzo mows the lawn, we hear the stereotypical screeching sound of a cat (as if it were frightened and/or hit by the mower).
  • Another muppet, Beaker, gets shocked.
  • Miss Piggy knocks a TV crew member aside, and then hits a TV producer in the gut.
  • To prove how tough they are before fighting, Miss Piggy and a government agent take turns kicking or knocking things over. She then hits him in the chest and he follows this by repeatedly punching her in the face (as she repeats "Is that all you got?" after each punch) and then putting her in a headlock (and giving her a "noogie" -- rapidly rubbing her hair with his knuckles). She then kicks him in the crotch and the fight is then over. Later, we see that she has him hogtied, and when she gets up, she knocks him to the floor.
  • Singer holds up Rizzo by his shirt in a threatening manner.
  • We see a Muppet rat jump from a maze after he steps on an electrified spot (he's okay beyond the shock).
  • A spring-loaded boxing glove twice hits Rizzo during a lab experiment.
  • A security guard briefly aims her handgun at Fozzie.
  • A TV anchor grabs Miss Piggy by the ear who in turn hits her several times. They then continue to struggle with one using a leg-lock around the head as well as hair pulling.
  • After being shot high into the air, Gonzo crashes to and through the ground but is okay.
  • Singer aims his high-tech, sci-fi weapon at some aliens, but can't get it to fire.

  • Reviewed July 7, 1999 / Posted July 14, 1999

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