Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 16, 2020)
Among Sesame Street, The Muppet Show and various movies, I grew up on the Muppets. While most of their appeal kids felt most of their appeal, Jim Henson's puppets offered a lot of fun for adults as well. The programs always were clever and featured a gently mocking tone that kept the material safe for young 'uns but enjoyable for their parents.
Some of that spirit comes through in 1999’s Muppets From Space, but I must admit that I didn't find it to be terribly entertaining. Oh, I'm sure that it's probably pretty enjoyable for kids, but I can't really review films on that basis, as it's hard to speculate what other demographics may think of a movie.
Hey, I wouldn't even want to speak for my own demographic - that of suave, sophisticated dudes, of course. I can only address what I personally think of the picture, and Space just doesn't do much for me.
A creature of unspecified species, Gonzo (Dave Goelz) feels lonely and wonders about his own kind. One day, he receives a message via his breakfast cereal that sends him on a quest to learn of his past.
It turns out that Gonzo comes from an alien race. As he seeks his people, government agents target him as well.
As noted, Space leaves me more than a little cold, though I find it tough to pin down why. Space offers one of those movies that seems to have all the right components but the whole adds up to less than the sum of its parts.
I don't think it's me, per se, because I know that I still find the better Muppet productions entertaining. Space, on the other hand, doesn't contain nearly as much creativity as those superior productions.
Maybe Jim Henson's death early in the 1990s really dealt a blow to the Muppet productions for the rest of the decade. Perhaps he possessed some unique quality he infused into the Muppet projects that others can imitate but not quite duplicate.
All I know is that there's something missing in Space and while it's a decent little movie, it lacks much appeal for adults. One somewhat strange component of the film stemmed from its roster of cameo appearances.
We see thespians such as Ray Liotta, Andie MacDowell, David Arquette, and F. Murray Abraham pop up in bit roles. (Jeffrey Tambor plays the only substantial human part in the movie.)
Logically, these brief appearances would seem to be sop for the adults who will delight in seeing the actors in these small roles, After all, other Muppet productions used cameos to good effect.
Here's the difference: look at lists of actors from previous Muppet films. 1979's Muppet Movie offered Steve Martin, Orson Welles, Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas, Milton Berle, Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, and many others - it featured an amazing roster of talent.
1981's Great Muppet Caper can't compete with its predecessor but still provides Diana Rigg, Charles Grodin, John Cleese, and Peter Ustinov.
Apparently, no Muppet films came out until 1992's Muppet Christmas Carol. For Carol and 1996's Muppet Treasure Island, it looks like the cameo formula used in the first two films got abandoned in favor of worlds with only a few humans.
Anyway, it's pretty clear that while the human talent in the first two films - especially Muppet Movie - offered a lot of entertainment for adults, the same cannot be said for the roster of Space. Hey, nothing against these folks, as they're some talented actors.
But cameos of this sort have to be fun - you need that recognition factor that accounts for half of the excitement to occur. That's not going to happen with Andie MacDowell or Ray Liotta.
At no point does Space become a poor movie, but it’s a lackluster one. It presents mild moments of amusement but not a consistent level of cleverness and humor.