Joshua J. Carr – Ah, Muppets from Space… The Muppet project that is most commonly known as “the one that’s not so great”. Mostly ignored and occasionally disrespected, it’s not the example most people run to in order to introduce new people to the Muppets. However, I would argue that it is far better than it gets credit for. In fact, I would dare say that there exists a 20 year span (1991-2011) in which it is the BEST Muppet production.
Admittedly, I get some of the criticisms. It’s far from perfect…while there was always a question of what Gonzo is, I never really needed an answer; he was really no more bizarre than a lot of the other abstract characters—he was a celebration of imagination and individuality, and that was good enough. Also, whoever decided that a Muppet movie would be better off with recycled 70’s funk than with original songs needs a good talking to. And because I feel the need to list a third thing, Dawson’s Creek? …Really?
But for all the problems, there is a lot to be thankful for as well. The Muppets just being themselves again? Yes, please! No disrespect to The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, but those were our favorite characters putting on a show. Seeing Kermit and Fozzie as a team again was a very welcome return. Of all the Muppet movies up to that point, this one felt the most like a sequel to The Muppet Movie. Also, how great was it to hear Dr. Teeth say “Shalom!”? It was just one word, but for a character who had been oddly silent for 9 years, it was a huge relief to hear. And don’t even get me started on seeing Scooter again! Can we all just agree that the 90’s were an odd time? If they had it to do over again, I would bet that recasts for deceased performers would have come sooner, but at the time they were keeping some characters silent (and in Scooter’s case, invisible) out of respect. It was a bad idea that had good reasons behind it. The troupe needed to grieve, but for us fans it was difficult to process that some of the characters may have died with their performers. Giving some of those characters that were lost in the shuffle moments to shine, even if brief, was very comforting.
Speaking of comforting, can we talk about Bobo (or Rento)? I realize that he was introduced on Muppets Tonight, but I was in college without access to a VCR (remember those) when it first aired, meaning I missed it more often than not. This film was my first time to really spend time with this character. As simple as it might sound, the fact that Bill Barretta is so obviously emulating a Jim Henson voice with Bobo gave this film a real warmth that had been missing for a while.
I get that this movie didn’t appeal to everyone, but I sincerely feel that it’s heart was in the right place, and for the first time in years it felt like a real reunion with these characters that I loved but thought had changed forever. And that’s a feeling that will always be welcome in my movie collection.
Joshua was one of the people who responded to our call for contributors. If you’d like to write for The Muppet Mindset, you can find some info right here!