Muppets from Space is a 1999 American science fiction comedy film and the sixth feature film to star The Muppets, and the first since the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson to have an original Muppet-focused plot. The film was directed by Tim Hill, produced by Jim Henson Pictures, and released to theaters on July 14, 1999. The film is a deviation of other Muppet films as it is the only non-musical film, as well as the first film in the series with a plot to focus predominantly on a character other than Kermit the Frog. It is also the last Muppet feature film to involve Frank Oz; he would retire from performing the following year. The film was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina at EUE/Screen Gems in 1998.
The Great Gonzo has always been identified as a "whatever"; but, after having disturbing dreams of abandonment and rejection, he begins to realize just how alone he is in the world. One of his nightmares involves his being denied entry onto Noah's Ark by Noah. The next morning, Gonzo tells Kermit the Frog that he is getting tired of being called a "whatever." After an alien race appears to be trying to send him a message through bowls of cereal, Gonzo realizes that he may not be so alone after all and climbs to the rooftop to start watching the sky. Using a bolt of lightning, Gonzo communicates with a pair of cosmic fish, revealing to him that he is an alien from outer space.
Unable to convince Kermit and his friends of the aliens' existence, Gonzo is lured into the clutches of K. Edgar Singer of C.O.V.N.E.T., a government organization disguised as a cement factory. Singer has also taken note of the aliens' attempts to communicate and thinks that Gonzo is his key to convincing his superiors that aliens do in fact exist. Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat are arrested by C.O.V.N.E.T. Agents and Agent Rentro. Rizzo's antics cause himself to be flushed down a tube by the Man in Black. Rizzo ends up having to go through C.O.V.N.E.T.'s rat training and medical research held by Dr. Tucker, alongside the other rats like Bubba the Rat, Shakes the Rat, Fast Eddie, Troy, and The Bird Man. After Miss Piggy interrogated Agent Baker, she, Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Pepe the King Prawn, and Animal spring into action to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo from C.O.V.N.E.T., using such inventions as a door in a jar, a rubber duck that sprays invisibility spray, and mind control gas from Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, which Miss Piggy uses on a gate guard).
A talking sandwich asks Gonzo where the alien ship can land, and Gonzo suggests Cape Doom (a beach), unaware that Agent Rentro is listening. At the military base, the gang arrives to rescue Gonzo and Rizzo. While on their rescue, everyone uses invisible spray but eventually becomes visible when Fozzie washes his hands upon exiting the restroom as Animal is unleashed upon a female guard. Rizzo frees Gonzo from the dissection table while the rats attack Dr. Phil Van Neuter, where Singer and General Luft witness the attack. General Luft leaves declaring that Singer "needs help." When Singer hears of Gonzo's escape, he has Agent Rentro prepare the Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer to use on the aliens and heads to his car. When Agent Rentro tells him that the car is impounded due to the parking tickets that Agent Rentro forgot to take care of, Singer and Agent Rentro end up taking the company car which happens to be a cement truck.
The Muppets go to Cape Doom after rescuing Gonzo and, along with a crowd of alien-happy spectators, await their arrival. The ship comes to Earth and the aliens, who all resemble Gonzo, explain that many years ago they lost him but welcome him back into the fold. Singer shows up and tries to kill the Aliens, but thanks to Agent Rentro (who has disabled his Subatomic Neutro-Destabilizer by taking the part that fires the weapon), he cannot and is laughed at. Gonzo considers going into space with his long-lost family, but chooses not to. While grateful for his family for going through the trouble of locating and visiting him on Earth, he decides not to go with them, as he wants to stay with his fellow Muppet Show castmates. Singer is invited by the aliens to go with them, and leaves as Earth's ambassador.
As the Muppets watching the stars on the roof, Gonzo tells Kermit he wonders why his family asked him to build a Jacuzzi. Pepe chuckles because he and Rizzo had pretended to be them and asked him to do it.
- Jeffrey Tambor as K. Edgar "Ed" Singer, the head of C.O.V.N.E.T. A self-explained paranoid, delusional psychopath.
- Pat Hingle as General Luft, a military official who K. Edgar Singer reports to.
- Rob Schneider as Martin, the TV producer of UFO Mania.
- Andie MacDowell as Shelley Snipes, a UFO Mania anchorwoman.
- Gary Owens as UFO Mania Announcer (voice)
- Dave Goelz as The Great Gonzo, Bunsen Honeydew, Waldorf and Birdman
- Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Bean Bunny, and Cosmic Fish #1
- Bill Barretta as Pepé the King Prawn, Bobo the Bear, Johnny Fiama, Bubba the Rat, and Cosmic Fish #2
- Jerry Nelson as Robin, Statler, Floyd Pepper, and Ubergonzo
- Brian Henson as Dr. Phil Van Neuter, Sal Minella, and the Talking Sandwich
- Kevin Clash as Clifford, Carter
- Frank Oz as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam Eagle
- Adam Hunt as Scooter
- John Henson as Sweetums
- John Kennedy as Dr. Teeth
Janice, Zoot, Droop. Lew Zealand, Link Hogthrob, Beauregard, Rowlf, Marvin Suggs, Crazy Harry, Chip, Zondra,Zippity Zap, Baab the Sheep, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Chickens, Cows, Fish, Moose Head, Alexis the Giraffe, Lydia the Ostrich, Tommy the Thomson's Gazelle, Doreen the Camel, Penguins, Alien Gonzos, Balloon-Head Conductor, Custer the Bison, Monica the Musk Ok, D'kembe the Gemsbok, a green monster from the meeting film "Think Bigger", Lobsters, Frackles, Flower-Eating Monster, Aretha, Begoony. Brool the Minstrel, Murray the Minstrel, Wander McMooch, Luncheon Counter Monster, Inkspots, The Newsman, Louis Kazagger, George the Janitor, Mildred Huxtetter, J.P. Grosse, Slim Wilson. Zeke, Flash, Lenny the Lizard, The Fazoobs, Bill the Frog, Gil the Frog, Jill the Frog, Shakey Sanchez, Quongo, Butch the Tiger, Wolf, Afghan Hound, Koozebanian Phoob, Sprocket, Bill the Bubble Guy, Blustering Bellowpane Monster, Mudwell the Mudbunny, Poison Cackler, Frankie the Wildebeest, Travis the African Buffalo, Randall the Zebra, Pops, Bobby Benson, Yolanda Rat, Clarissa, Jowls, Sheep, Horses, Doc Bullfrog, Yancy Woodchuck, Swifty the Cheetah
- F. Murray Abraham as Noah
- David Arquette as Dr. Tucker, a sadistic scientist that works at C.O.V.N.E.T. and is in charge of the medical research that involves the rats.
- Josh Charles as Agent Baker, an operative of C.O.V.N.E.T.
- Kathy Griffin as Female Armed Guard, an operative of C.O.V.N.E.T.
- Hollywood Hogan as Man in Black/Himself, an operative of C.O.V.N.E.T.
- Ray Liotta as Gate Guard, the gate guard at C.O.V.N.E.T.
- Joshua Jackson as Pacey Witter, a character from Dawson's Creek.
- Katie Holmes as Joey Potter, a character from Dawson's Creek.
Frank Oz was not available for most of the film's production. As a result, his characters were performed on set by other Muppet performers, with Oz later looping his voice in post production. For most of the filming, Peter Linz, John Kennedy, and Rickey Boyd performed his characters. Their voices can still be heard in several scenes used in the film's theatrical trailer, as well as the blooper reel.
This film would mark the first appearance of Scooter since 1990's The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. He was performed by Adam Hunt (brother of Scooter's initial performer Richard Hunt).
An earlier draft of the story was written by Kirk Thatcher called "Muppets in Space." In the screenplay, aliens abducted Kermit because they believed him to be their leader, leading the other Muppets to attempt to save him. A set of Welch's Jelly Glasses were produced based around this theme. According to the production notes featured on the DVD, the film was inspired by Gonzo's song in The Muppet Movie (1979), "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday".
This was the first Muppet film to not be a traditional musical film with original music, opting instead for a soundtrack primarily of classic soul and funk tracks. Some tracks were remade by contemporary artists, such as "Shining Star" by the Dust Brothers featuring Jeymes, and "Dazz" by G. Love and Special Sauce. Which was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound in Sheffield, AL. The band was in the studio recording with Little Milton on the "Welcome To Little Milton" record. The band got a call from Jason Brown, their manager, while in the studio, to record a song for the movie. Will McFarlane, who was a Shoals/Malaco studio regular, and former Bonnie Raitt guitarist, played with the band on the song. Parliament's "Flash Light" was updated by George Clinton as a duet with Pepe the King Prawn named "Starlight". Two soundtracks were released featuring music from the film. One was an album containing the classic soul and funk tracks, while the other was an album containing the film's score. The film's score was composed by Jamshied Sharifi and Rupert Gregson-Williams, and released by Varèse Sarabande.
Earlier drafts of the film had more original music, including the song "Eye 2 the Sky", written and recorded by Ween, which was not included on the soundtrack. This song was intended to be sung by Gonzo. Dave Goelz had also recorded a new rendition of "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" for this film, a song which had originally appeared in The Muppet Movie. This song was also dropped, but was included on the Muppets from Space soundtrack, also sung by Gonzo.
According to Brian Henson, the film was planned by The Jim Henson Company to be released in the winter, around February 2000, but Columbia wanted Muppets from Space to be one of their big summer movies, rushing production and causing there to be less advertising for the film. It also suffered competition from Walt Disney Pictures' Inspector Gadget.
Muppets from Space grossed $22.3 million worldwide against its $24 million budget
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 63% based on 56 reviews. The site's consensus reads "if Muppets from Space lacks the magic and wit of its cinematic predecessors, this pleasingly silly space romp is funny and clever enough to make for better-than-average family entertainment."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a two star rating (out of four) and concluded his review by saying that "maybe Muppets from Space is just not very good, and they'll make a comeback. I hope so. Because I just don't seem to care much anymore." On the other hand, Robin Rauzi of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review stating that "twenty years after The Muppet Movie and 30 after the beginning of Sesame Street, there is still life in these creations of felt, foam rubber and fake fur. With care, they will easily entertain and educate a third or fourth generation of children. The magic is back."
In a February 2000 interview, Frank Oz described the film as not "up to what it should have been," and "not the movie that we wanted it to be."