Muppets return in Halloween special

Written By Brooke Stephens, Staff Writer

2 Globes

The Muppets are making another comeback with a new spooky special on Disney+ with “Muppets Haunted Mansion.” The focus of the movie is on Gonzo and Pepé the King Prawn as they enter the mansion which is holding a contest by Gonzo’s favorite magician, The Great MacGuffin. They decide to skip the annual Muppets Halloween Party to see if they could succeed at the challenge: if you face your fears, and you are free to go. If you do not, you are stuck in the Haunted Mansion forever.

Before entering the mansion, their supposed fates are hidden in the beginning scene. The background looks entirely realistic during the movie, without the addition of ghosts and monsters throughout the rooms and hallways. The car dropping the characters off and picking them up the next morning has a license plate that changes from “2 Die 4” to “D-End.” The movie is full of slight changes and foreshadowing to what might occur in the rest of the film.

Outside the possibly overdone dark mansion is a small graveyard, where The Caretaker played by Darren Criss breaks into song. The cast list of Will Arnett, Yvette Nicole Brown, and late Ed Asner, among others, also star in the movie. The “Muppets Haunted Mansion” soundtrack includes four songs, with one cover of “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

Although on a Disney platform, the film could be considered slightly morbid. Gonzo was forced to be afraid near the end of the night, by hearing conversations that were not actually happening. Pepé is magically entranced by mansion resident The Bride, which attempts to fool lost or impatient souls to fall in love with her. She uses magic and feeds her victims grapes, before turning them into ghosts that live in her portraits. The King Prawn is an exception as she wants to eat him alive before turning into a ghost.

There may be a place in the movie where it is appropriate to pause and say: “What is this?” The jokes are comedic but are made too often to be of much value. The rest of The Muppet cast are turned into ghosts while simultaneously at a party, because the Haunted Mansion has the power to play tricks on the mind. Eventually, the death-themed commentary is useless. A blue floating Fozzie Bear head, a plant with sharp teeth, and a monster in the winding stairwell does not scare Gonzo. Pepé is too focused on finding the “Famous Peoples Party” to become terrified.

The Muppets Haunted Mansion might not add anything in particular to the fan base, but developing Gonzo as a main character after the recent landmark episode of the animated children’s show “Muppet Babies” where Gonzo was portrayed to be gender-non-conforming was interesting to see. Gonzo also deals with similar worries that we all could experience at one point in our lives, if our friends will like us if we change. He fears that if he were to stop doing stunts, the rest of The Muppets wouldn’t care about him as much as they do now. Exposing the man, or the more humane emotional aspects, behind the muppet creates a more relatable environment within the movie.

The Muppet franchise, with a complex history from 1955, lacks the meaningfulness other children’s specials may have. There is no overarching life lesson of being kind, open, being empathetic, etc. Muppets fans are left to their own devices of what running around in a Haunted Mansion for a night means. The films fail to create a balance, choosing to be more entertainment than going into depth on experiences.