Like all Muppet movies, this latest entry has plenty of jokes to keep the parents happy while the kids are enjoying the story. This time, the story focuses on a question that has intrigued Muppet fans for years: exactly what IS Gonzo? Gonzo feels alone and outcast, even in the midst of the busy Muppet group house. He dreams that Noah refuses to let him on the ark because there is only one of him, and Noah wants only pairs. But then he begins receiving messages and learns that he is an alien, and that his alien family is coming to meet him.
There is a problem, though. Edgar Singer (Jeffrey Tambor of television’s “Larry Sanders Show”), who works at a mysterious government office that tracks aliens, captures Gonzo and orders a scientist to remove his brain for study. Gonzo’s pal Rizzo the Rat is put in a cage with lab rats. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, and the others set out to rescue them.
The movie has sly references to just about every space movie classic, from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” (plus “The Shawshank Redemption”), cameos from stars including Andie MacDowell, Ray Liotta, and David Arquette, and a bouncy score of rock classics. While the score draws from performers like James Brown, The Commodores and Sly and the Family Stone, the human performers are overwhelmingly white, a mistake also too often committed by the sci-fi movies so lovingly parodied. With that caveat, and with the further warning that this may not be the Muppets’ all-time best, it is a very pleasant way to spend a quick 90 minutes, and the best movie of the summer for families with younger children.