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Rated 2.92 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Disappointing for Diehard Muppets Fans
by Geoffrey D. Roberts

As a lifelong fan of Jim Hensonís legendary Muppets I felt let down by Muppets Haunted Mansion. Most of Hensonís beloved characters barely appear in the film and only sporadically as ghostly apparitions plus in a credit sequence where they all perform ďDancing in The Moonlight.Ē 

This 2021 film focuses squarely on Gonzo (Dave Goelz) being challenged to survive a night in a haunted mansion or be locked inside it for eternity. Early in the  proceedings, Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson) even alludes to this fatal mistake by director Kirk R. Thatcher, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Bill Barretta and Kelly Younger. Having been confined to a crystal ball, she grumbles that this is her only major scene throughout.

But on with the show.  Every year Gonzo attends a gathering where Kermit (Matt Vogel), Miss Piggy, Scooter (David Rudman), Fozzy Bear (Eric Jacobson), The Swedish Chef (Bill Barretta), The Electric Mayhem and an assortment of other Muppets gather together to celebrate Halloween.

This year will be different from all the others because Gonzo has phoned Kermit at the last-minute informing him not to expect him because he has accepted an invitation challenging him to survive an entire night in a haunted mansion where he will escape by dawn the next day. The only way to exit the house is if he and his friend Pepe The Prawn (Bill Barretta), who has tagged along expecting to meet famous celebrities, overcome their darkest fears and frights. Having successfully executed several near-death stunts in previous Muppet projects and lived to tell, Gonzo assumes rather incorrectly that this will be an absolute cakewalk.

Disney acquired the rights to The Muppets in 2004, and I think with the exception of 2011ís The Muppets and its sequel Muppets Most Wanted has taken the characters in the wrong direction. Several made for TV movies, specials and the dreadful 2014 television series The Muppets focused on the adult lives and private off-screen antics of the characters. And the recent Disney+ reboot series Muppets Now all failed to hit the mark with many diehard fans and potential new ones.

Steve Whitmire portrayed Kermit The Frog from 1990-2016  before being fired for sounding off over his perception that Disney mishandled The Muppets and strayed too far from the late Jim Hensonís vision and principals. But I agree with the assessment he's stated in numerous interviews. Whitmire firmly believes The Muppets wonít survive much longer if Disney keeps reassigning them to new puppeteers and writers who donít have a deep connection, passion and flair for the characters.

This is readily apparent with Matt Vogelís portrayal of Kermit The Frog.  He strains too hard to imitate Jim Hensonís voice, Kermit's mannerisms, and Henson's overall performance style while never adding anything new of his own.

Musical compositions for this latest Muppets offering  -- including new songs Rest In Peace, Life Hereafter and Tie The Knot -- made me long for the brilliance of Hall of Fame songwriter Paul Williams who wrote the iconic Rainbow Connection and  1979 The Muppets Movie's musical score.

Kirk R. Thatcher is an extremely gifted puppeteer and creature builder. He worked on previous Muppets projects including Muppets Wizard of Oz, Muppets Treasure Island and Muppets Now. However, his direction and the screenplay for this offering fall far short of the late Jim Hensonís wit and creative genius. Neither he nor his fellow screenwriters grasp what made The Muppets endearing, relatable and instantaneously memorable in the first place.

(Released by Disney+ and rated TV-PG.)

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