Monday, October 18, 2021

Ominous October - Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021)

Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Muppet Haunted Mansion (2021)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Length: 52 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Disney Branded Television, Disney+, Soapbox Films, The Muppets Studio, Walt Disney Television
Director: Kirk R. Thatcher
Writers: Bill Barretta, Kirk R. Thatcher, Kelly Younger, Jim Lewis, Jim Henson, Walt Disney
Actors: Will Arnett, Taraji P. Henson, Darren Criss, Yvette Nicole Brown, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz, David Rudman, Julianne Buescher, Alice Dinnean, Bruce Lanoil, Brian Henson, Nicolette Santino, Alex Villa, Alfonso Ribeiro, Ed Asner, Chrissy Metz, Jeannie Mai Jenkins, Danny Trejo, Sasheer Zamata, Skai Jackson, Geoff Keighley, Pat Sajak, Justina Machado, Craig Robinson, John Stamos, Kim Irvine, Quinn McPherson, Sarah Oh, Colleen Smith, Allan Trautman
Blurb from IMDb:  On Halloween night, Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been a fan of The Muppets my entire life. Between Sesame Street (1969-) and the various Muppet shows, I developed a love for these felted and fuzzy characters very early on. 

The glow of nostalgia is like a warm hug whenever I watch my old favorites such as the Muppet Babies (1984-1991) cartoon or The Muppet Show (1976-1981). I have fond memories of seeing The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) in the theater. I remember sitting with my friends from daycare and getting excited as the curtains drew back from the screen. That is one thing I miss with the modern movie experience. I digress…
Needless to say, whenever there is a new Muppet production available, I am generally right on top of it. (Well, except Muppets Now (2020) but we’re not here to talk about that.)

When I saw that The Muppets were finally doing a Halloween special, I was practically beside myself with giddy anticipation. I didn’t really even care that it was halfway a shameless promotion for the Disney parks’ attraction. Muppets Haunted Mansion is named after (and based on) the Disney park staple, after all. The lovable puppets have put forth a slew of holiday specials in the past, but this is their very first spooky spectacular.
Horror comedy is my favorite flavor of the genre, so this special promised to make me one very happy camper. Of course, calling anything involving The Muppets a “horror” of any variety is really a stretch. I expected spooky-lite.

Muppets Haunted Mansion was also the first production I’ve seen since Kermit the Frog got a voice actor change-up putting Matt Vogel (The Muppets, Sesame Street, Alice Through the Looking Glass) at the helm of our favorite felt frog. I could hear the difference only ever so slightly – but it was close enough that I wasn’t put off. I was having too good of a time to mind – and Gonzo with his pal Pepe the Prawn were the stars of this extravaganza anyway.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been to Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction, so I couldn’t tell you whether or not Muppets Haunted Mansion is faithful to the in-person experience. IMDb has some cute trivia tidbits connecting the live park experience to the cinematic treatment, however. My enjoyment was based on the film production itself as a stand-alone.

Let’s get into the meat of the matter.
Muppets Haunted Mansion was everything I hoped it would be.
Everything you could wish for with a Muppets special was included. There were celebrity cameos hidden as Easter Eggs, as well as a random celebrity appearance. All of the beloved characters you would expect to see included were present, for the most part. The jokes were on point, there was razzle-dazzle, and musical numbers highlighted the story. 

The Muppets did their own numbers, but Darren Criss (Glee, Wayward Guide, Yasuke) and Taraji P. Henson’s (Empire, Proud Mary, Ralph Breaks the Internet) performances were also a highlight. There wasn’t too much of any one element, so it felt well balanced. Of course, there was also the customary moral of the story, but it was worked in so that it didn’t feel like the lesson was being drilled into you.

I liked the mixture of special effects between apparitions and how they blended effects with the live Muppets – such as with the floating ghosts. The setting was cool and creepy – but not too much. Very small children might get a bit spooked here and there, but nothing was really all that scary. Of course, some of the Muppets have always been on the monstrous side. They fit right in here.
There were so many nods to the old-school Muppets’ style and flair that it made my heart happy, as well as provided for a lot of giggles. At the same time, the story was grounded in current times – such as with use of cell phones, etc. so that younger, or more current audiences would also feel connected. There was something for everyone packed into this not-quite-hour-long special. Our whole family gathered ‘round for this viewing and everyone enjoyed themselves. I dare say my teen even put her phone down for a bit to watch.
I honestly wouldn’t mind watching Muppets Haunted Mansion again and would recommend it in a heartbeat. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 86%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score - 65%
Metascore – 67%
Metacritic User Score –  7.7/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

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