MUPPETS HAUNTED MANSION (REVIEW)

Oct 7, 2021

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When it comes to The Muppets you either love them or….wait there is no or, you love them. But maybe somewhere along the way you lost that “connection”. You grew up, they changed ownership in a sense and the whole relationship got weird. Although to be fair weird is right where the Muppets belong. Still it seems that under a certain gloved thumb they haven’t been able to take the stage and shine like the stars they are. But magically the icon seems to have donned the Fantasia red cloak and celestial cap just in time for the season of frights. With a wave of the wand he has given the Muppets new life. Or afterlife at least. Arriving on Disney+ October 8th the Muppets invite all manners of ghosts and ghouls to watch their first ever Halloween special. Enter the Muppet Haunted Mansion. Dun, dun, dun. Dun, dun.

Muppets Haunted Mansion

Streaming on Disney Plus

Directed by: Kirk Thatcher
Written by: Kirk Thatcher, Kelly Younger
Story by: Bill Barretta
Starring: Gonzo the Great, Pepe the King Prawn, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzi Bear, Will Arnett, Taraji P. Henson, Darren Criss, John Stamos, Yvette Nicole Brown and more

Why don’t we get things haunting

The evening (and film) starts off with an overjoyed Gonzo the Great howling to the moon out of a sunroof. Ducking back inside the limo he explains to his PIC (Prawn in Crime) Pepe, the Shrimp King Prawn, how fortunate they are to be going to a mansion party. Pepe, ever the charmer, sees this as an opportunity to remind all his ladies what they are missing out on by hanging with a V.I.P. (by now you can figure these out, right?). Given their responses they either remember or have chosen to block the memory entirely. As Pepe sorts out the confusion Gonzo receives a call from Kermit. The Muppets annual Halloween party (who’s ready to bob for tomatoes?) is just getting started. Gonzo informs Kermit of his alternate plans. While Gonzo seems unaware viewers will certainly notice the frog turn a shade of blue.

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Can you guess what Kermit and Miss Piggy dressing up as for Halloween? No, it’s not Green Legs and Ham.

Soon the limo arrives at the Mansion gates. As their driver played by Yvette Nicole Brown is departing she makes an odd comment. It seems she just drops people off but never has to worry about picking anyone back up. Entering the Graveyard the two encounter Darren Criss as the Caretaker. In a hint of what viewers can expect a Muppet (Dog from Tale of Bunny Picnic) plays the role of the Caretaker’s Dog, Bones. This interaction leads to one of the three new music numbers featured in the special. In “Rest In Piece” a number of famous faces help the production by portraying some of the familiar burial-“plots” from the haunted attraction in a playful manner.

this mansion has 999 ghosts but there is still room for 1

Or in this case 2. Similar to what visitors of the theme park attraction experience it doesn’t take long before Gonzo and Pepe discover that not everything is as it seems in the Mansion. Upon entering the Mansion they are greeted by The Host played by Will Arnett. Despite the antics of his co-stars the funny actor keeps a straight face and delivers the attraction’s famous dialogue with the spirit of true Disney cast member.

Is the room stretching or is it your imagination?

The Host informs Gonzo of the reason for this particular event. Gonzo can prove how truly daring he is by surviving one night in the Mansion. Can Gonzo complete this challenge from the Great MacGuffin himself? Can Gonzo face his greatest fear? In true Henson Muppet tradition there is a message in the madcap madness.

Gonzo: Dressed to the Schnozz, I mean Nines. Pepe: In an all Black Tux with Tails. Okay.

With the exception of John Stamos who plays himself, which let’s be honest is a role in and of itself…the man is handsome, the remainder of the film has the Muppets and their co-stars playing parts from the attraction. The always delightful Taraji P. Henson makes for a daunting Constance Hatchaway from the attic scene. With the mention of “jumbo” she has Pepe echoing her affection during the “Tie the Knot Tango” and on the hook to be headless groom number 7. Meanwhile Miss Piggy leaves her (well earned) ego at the door and shrinks her head to fit into the crystal ball as the Sceance Room’s Madame Pig-ota. The Electric Mayhem performs duties playing the ethereal instruments. The band also gets to open and close the show with their rendition of “Dancing in the Moonlight”.

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Recent Muppet endeavors put Gonzo and Pepe (Poor Rizzo) in the forefront and this movie was no exception. Still as I watched I couldn’t help notice not one Muppet was left behind.

Old school Muppets like Dr. Bunson and Beaker can be seen in the role of busts featured in the ride. Meanwhile a newer addition, the Screaming Goat, steals the scene at the perfect moment for ride accuracy. This showcase provides familiar faces for generations of Muppet fans and proves the longevity of the franchise.

Personally I feel the Muppets always work best when you forget everything else and embrace them as performers working with human actors. Set the stage and let these seasoned actors steal the show. And with the exception of Cinderella’s Castle, The Haunted Mansion is possibly the best known Disney Park attraction. Having the Muppets act against the backdrop of this established production means all that’s left is to let the gang work the room for laughs and gags.

If you need any more proof just wait for the Ballroom scene. The homage to the Muppet Show’s opening during the song “Life Hereafter” was a stroke of brilliance. This is also where some of the best lines of the show take place. It combines the portion from the ride with the classic Muppet Show’s “At the Dance” sketch. As Beverly Plume is whirled around the dance floor she remarks some of her “ghoul-friends” are having her for Thanksgiving.

It’s scary how funny the Muppets can be if you just let them. Don’t ya just love em…to death.

Score: 9.8

Watch Muppets Haunted Mansion only on Disney+ beginning on October 8th

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