-By Maria Garcia

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Muppets From Space is Gonzo's story. Gonzo, a kind of gooney bird, gazes longingly at the pictures of Kermit's and Miss Piggy's relatives, and laments his own singularity. Where did he come from? Then his breakfast cereal 'speaks' to him and tells him his relatives are out there, in space. Gonzo immediately spells out a message on the lawn and awaits their arrival. What begins as a charming idea quickly digresses into a misconceived story about the dangers of Gonzo's journey, and the misadventures of the other Muppets in their desire to help him. Gonzo's search for his roots and his identity-a quest at the heart of many endearing children's stories-is lost in the film's emphasis on action which, ironically, serves as a warning to children not to embark on such a journey.

The Muppet stars include Kermit the Frog (the patriarch of the family), Miss Piggy, Rizzo the Rat, Fozzie Bear, and this reviewer's favorite, Animal. Although they resemble a dysfunctional family, the Muppets manage to band together in a crisis, and in this case, when Gonzo is kidnapped by the feds for speaking to aliens, everybody comes to his rescue. Kermit attempts to organize their efforts, Miss Piggy features Gonzo on her new show 'UFO Mania,' and Rizzo, Gonzo's best friend and roommate, acts as his spokesperson.

Children at a recent screening began to squirm about halfway through the movie-the only people laughing were adults-because much of the humor is a spoof of adult films. The many digressions in the screenplay-Rizzo's adventure as a lab rat and Miss Piggy's play at TV stardom-are amusing but detract from the far more interesting story about Gonzo's relatives, one that would actually interest children. The unsatisfying conclusion explains nothing about Gonzo's space ancestors, or why Gonzo was left here on earth. Jeffrey Tambor's performance as the obsessed federal agent is over the top, and the only memorable cameo is by Ray Liotta, who plays a guard smitten with Miss Piggy.

Sporting a kind of smart-ass, wry sense of humor that is more appropriate to adult entertainment, Muppets From Space simply isn't a good children's film. It lacks the frankly child-like point of view of The Rugrats Movie, for instance, and the innocent charm of earlier Muppet films like The Muppet Christmas Carol. It's a slick, beautifully designed movie with no soul and very little subtext. If Animal, always mercifully succinct, were doing this review, he might have written: 'Snore!' Then he'd stick his head in the toilet bowl and flush.

--Maria Garcia

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