Muppets from Space: Thoughts on the Music

Dearth

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I was listening to the soundtrack for MFS this morning in the car, and I was remembering the complaints that I've read on here about the lack of the characters singing their emotions in song.

First of all, I have to say, I honestly never noticed the lack of 'show tunes' in the film. I liked the morning lip synch to Brick House, but I wasn't conscious of anything being amiss or out of their normal style until it was pointed out to me.

But here's one thing that I never considered before... when the 'alien Gonzos' arrive on Earth, their main gift to their lost brother is what? A song. Sure, it's an existing song rather than a new composition written especially for the film, which rankles some fans. But notice that it's a song from a few decades past...

How many times have we seen this science fiction cliche? The aliens who have been monitoring Earth communications from afar, and learn to communicate from our old television and radio. (Explorers is the best example to pop to mind, since I'm on a Joe Dante kick lately. But even in Splash, Madison learns to speak from watching TV and her speech is peppered with game-show phrases.)

So, if you work backwards from there...

The Alien Gonzos will sing an old Earth song to Gonzo as their most heartfelt gift. That's your big climax, your main emotional beat in the film. The finale.

Everything else needs to BUILD to that moment. If the other Muppet characters were breaking into song every few minutes, it could arguably lessen the impact of the dramatic/emotional resolution. Filmmakers sometimes even deny a particular color to the palette of a film so that one character will stand out better, for instance if the hero wears red, no one else in the movie will be seen in red.

I myself once directed a production of Twelve Angry Jurors where everything, every costume, prop, set piece, jewelry, even the actors' hair-- everything except their skin tones-- was monochromatic. Black, white, silver, or grey. Nothing else. This was a visual metaphor for the fact that the characters only saw the world in black and white. Furthermore, only one character was allowed to wear grey... juror number eight, the one who argues for reasonable doubt.

Then, as the story progressed, as the characters deliberated and began to see things from other points of view, and especially as their emotions ran high, color was introduced with lights, and we even switched out certain props with colored duplicates. This was the visual indication that they were beginning to open their minds. It was a hypertheatrical choice for a play with very little requirements for light changes, etc.

Of course, many people said they loved the black-and-white movie look, but disliked it when things changed to color. You can't always please your audience with your stylistic metaphor.

Couldn't the Muppets from Space music selections have been a bold intentional decision? "Let's deny the audience seeing any Muppets break into song, so that they CRAVE it? They feel unfulfilled, along with Gonzo. And then, for the heart of the film, when Gonzo discovers he is not alone in the universe, when he gets his deepest wish fulfilled, that's when we finally give the audience a musical number, and fulfill what they've been missing too!"

Anyway, I think the Muppets have a lot more going for them than just their songs. I vaguely recall an explanation once, maybe in a magazine about Fraggle Rock, that music is a way to better convey the emotions of the puppets to the audience. But when I think about moments like Boober and Red trapped in a cave-in and thinking they were going to die, I don't remember a song, I remember two ACTING performances with a lot of heart.

The story carries MFS without needing it to be a musical. Gonzo feels alone. What's hard to grasp about that?

I'll go a step further, and say that the Muppets can work totally without music. They've got a greater range than that. In fact, that was one of the things that I DISliked about the Muppet Show comic book. Rather than excising the songs in a silent medium, Langridge tried to keep the 'traditional Muppet songs' in, and if there's one thing I hate in a comic book worse than an action scene that you can't even follow, it's twenty word balloons chock full of lyrics and no idea what the melody or meter is!

My buddy Jeremy says Muppets from Space is his favorite Muppet movie. I won't go that far, but I really enjoyed it. So there are some of us who don't mind if the Muppets try new things.

Alex
 

Muppet Master

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So, if you work backwards from there...

If the other Muppet characters were breaking into song every few minutes, it could arguably lessen the impact of the dramatic/emotional resolution.
I seriously never saw it that way, kind of makes you like MFS a bit more.
 

WalterFan1234

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Honestly I see where you're coming from with all of this but I still miss the music. I think it brings a happiness to the muppet movies, and that's what I'll always love about them. This was especially apparent in the Muppets, because there were so many great numbers that make you feel great.
 
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