Muppets From Space

Muppets From Space (1999)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Extras: Commentary Track, Outtakes, Music Video, Trailers

It always takes a few years until the Muppets reappear on the big screen in a new motion picture, and it is a celebration for me every time. Luckily this year has seen such a return of those furry and fluffy, loveable little fellows that have become household names a long time ago. After a completely understated theatrical run, the film is now making it to DVD from Columbia TriStar Home Video with a number of special features.

Gonzo has recurring nightmares about his origins. What kind of animal is he anyway, and where did he originally come from. Soon it dawns on him that he must be an alien.
Just as he discovers this life-changing truth, he receives a message from his breakfast cereal that tells him that his fellow aliens are on their way, looking for him.

Of course no one believes Gonzo. Kermit takes it for just one more of Gonzo’s eccentric escapades and his roommate Rizzo, the rat, has long given up hope for Gonzo’s sanity, especially when they all witness him write messages in the front lawn with the lawnmower for his alien friends and relatives to find him. The message from outer space was also intercepted by a secret government agency however, and they immediately set out to find Gonzo and ‘examine’ the alien a little closer. When Gonzo and Rizzo are held captive by the agency, the entire Muppets crew pulls together to save their friends from the humiliating lab experiments.

Fun, fun, fun! That’s what came to my mind after watching this new Muppets movie. It is filled with great and funny ideas and makes fun not only of the alien encounter theories, but also of a large array of recent Hollywood movies. It is also a persiflage on the Muppets themselves and the entertainment industry as a whole, weaving in a nice subplot with Miss Piggy turning into an Anchor of an Alien Abduction show competing with Andie MacDowell for that prime time anchor position. This is Gonzo’s movie, and rightfully so. Apart from Rizzo and Pepe the King Prawn, most other Muppets characters take a bit of a backseat in favor for the story to develop the right momentum. Hardly surprising, Gonzo and Rizzo also contributed a <$commentary,commentary track> to this movie to set all the facts straight – but more on that a little later.

Apart from bringing in all the members of the Muppet family, the movie contains a large number of cameo appearances by familiar stars. Andie MacDowell, David Arquette, Ray Liotta and many others have their little stints in this film and add to its entertainment value. At its core it is a heartfelt story about friendship within the Muppet family. Just like the Muppet TV show segments it is filled with educating and entertaining elements, all nicely wrapped up in a colorful mix of impossible action, parody and music. If you love the TV show, you will love this movie!

Columbia TriStar Home Video’s DVD contains the film’s original <$PS,widescreen> version in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as well as a <$PS,pan & scan> transfer. The <$PS,widescreen> presentation is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets and boasts an incredibly detailed transfer. The level of detail on the disc is incredible, reproducing every bit of information from the film’s print. No noise or grain is visible anywhere in the picture and neither are compression artifacts of any sort. Color reproduction is extremely strong but without noticeable over-enhancement. The disc nicely reproduces the film’s powerful colors and hues and faithfully reproduces even the subtlest nuances. Fleshtones are naturally rendered throughout without ever feeling washed out. The black level on this disc is perfectly adjusted, creating deep and solid shadows, but also perfectly reproduces the pictures’ highlights.

"Muppets From Space" contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack as well as a <$DS,Dolby Surround> track in English. The difference between both tracks is rather small, especially since the film is not exceptionally heavy on the surround effects. Only in a handful of selected scenes do the surrounds really kick in noticeably to emphasize the action on the screen – when they do, they do very effectively so, however. The Dolby Digital track has a much wider and fuller mix and is preferred over the somewhat ‘narrower’ sounding Dolby Surround track.

The disc also contains a few supplements, such as the film’s trailer, a "Muppets" music video and a number of blooper outtakes. Although these outtakes are highly reminiscent to what we had gotten to see on Pixar’s "A Bug’s Life", their somewhat crude presentation on this disc actually adds immensely to their supposed authenticity. They look like untreated work prints that someone has truly tossed to the cutting room floor. The greatest supplement on the disc is the <$commentary,commentary track>, no question, and one could argue whether it is actually an added feature or more a direct extension of the film itself. The commentary can be selected to work like a regular <$commentary,audio commentary> or selectively as a "Mystery Science Theater"-like silhouette commentary that had first been introduced by Columbia on their release of "Ghostbusters". This time it is evident however that the technology has been improved and the characters are much more active and very often reach into the picture itself to point out certain things. The commentary features ‘real life’ director Tim Hill, Rizzo and Gonzo. Kermit appears quickly during the opening scenes of the film but then leaves the building, so to say.

If you have never listened to any <$commentary,commentary track> on any of your DVDs, this is the one to start with. It is a hoot and in part is actually funnier than the movie itself. It is not overly informative, but I think that was never the intention here. Especially Rizzo and Gonzo mock everything and everyone they see on the screen, turning the entire film into a highly entertaining sideshow of its own. The comments range from poignant all the way to outlandish and are ALWAYS funny. Nothing is sacred, and the amount of exaggerations the two can come up with is not even matched by the Lie-Baron Münchhausen himself. I have never laughed like this during any <$commentary,commentary track> before.

Columbia TriStar Home Video serves up another one of their little masterpieces with "Muppets From Space". The movie conjures up images of some of the best Muppets memories from the TV show. It is the best Muppets movie, right next to "The Muppets Christmas Carol" and is pure, uninhibited family entertainment. Make sure to have some time on your hands, though, when you put in this disc. You will have to watch the film first and then the <$commentary,commentary track>. Even if you plan to only give the commentary a glimpse, I promise you, it will get you hooked immediately with the "Digital Popcorn" remarks and won’t let go until you’ve gone through the entire movie again, and you hear their comments about this "Frank Outz Guy". There is no escape – the Muppets are back big time!