Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz) is having that nightmare again, the one where he is back in Biblical times and Noah (F. Murray Abraham) is gathering the animals two-by-two on the ark to escape the flood. But Gonzo is refused admission thanks to there being only one of him, and not even he knows what he is, so is forced to stand outside in the rain while holding an umbrella - it's at this point he usually wakes up with a start, and this morning is no exception as he sits bolt upright and catapults his friend Rizzo the Rat (Steve Whitmire) out of the window in the process...
For the least financially successful of the Muppet movies, they stopped basing their plot around classic sources and came up with a new idea all centred around the character of The Great Gonzo. Unfortunately, the number of viewers in the general audience who counted him as their favourite was not as many as those who liked, say Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy or Fozzie Bear as most considered Gonzo as strictly supporting performer material, and thus this outing for the popular puppets proved less attractive to them than the ones that had gone before, relegating them to television specials for over a decade.
This has landed Muppets from Space a kind of forgotten, odd one out reputation among the theatrical movies, which in its way is oddly more fitting for Gonzo than if it had been a huge hit. But there are those select few who count themselves as ardent fans of these comedy characters who still enjoy this regardless of what others think, and it was true that it seemed more like a proper Muppet movie than their previous cinematic venture, Muppet Treasure Island. This was harking back to the first trilogy of their movies, the ones made before Jim Henson died, where they interacted with the real world rather than exist in some fantasyland.
Of course, with the science fiction element, you could observe that Muppets from Space was existing in a fantasyland as well, yet for most of it this carried on in contemporay America much as their earlier efforts had done. With Gonzo as the lead, his main plotline concerned whether he would ever find those of his own kind, and as Planet Earth is receiving messages for him all across the globe, it looks likely that he will be making contact soon. Essentially what you have here is the Muppets Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and there are explicit references to that film throughout this in case you didn't pick up on the major influence, with occasional references to other science fiction along the way.
If you thought that the Muppets and sci-fi never improved on their Star Wars episode back in the seventies, complete with Gonzo as Darth Vader, then you may find what goes on here anaemic at best as far as laughs went, but there was that sweet natured, inclusive humour that understandably many found hard to resist even when it wasn't firing on all cylinders. Gonzo ends up kidnapped by Jeffrey Tambor's top secret government organisation, a dose of nineties paranoia entering into the benevolent Muppet world, but really the most pleasure derived from the characters interacting, with newcomer Pepe the Prawn (Bill Barretta) more than proving his worth as an addition to the team, although some would grumble that the traditional Muppets were rather neglected among so many speaking roles needing to be fit in. This was not a musical for a change, so the tunes were seventies funk standards on the soundtrack, but many might not notice the difference. Overall, it was mild, but amusing enough.