In the present day, The Muppets Haunted Mansion hits Disney+, and whereas not precisely as frightful for us as it’s for Pepe and Gonzo, it definitely is pleasant. For the primary time shortly, it feels just like the kind of collaboration Disney and the Henson Company have been searching for to make the Muppets actually really feel at residence on the home of mouse.
Haunted Mansion—ostensibly a collaboration that sees Gonzo and Pepe ditch Kermit’s annual Halloween celebration to as an alternative spend an evening in the Haunted Mansion of Disney Park fame—is the most recent in an extended line of Disney’s newer makes an attempt to convey the Muppets in step with its personal TV plans. The hit-and-miss revival at ABC tried to cram a Muppets Present vibe into a recent comedy present setting, and whereas components of its daring experiment to dive into the messy lives of the Muppets past their present have been intriguing, it finally didn’t join. The first Muppets project for Disney+ in the meantime, Muppets Now, traded the character drama the earlier revival had for skits and movie star cameos, and whereas nonetheless notably higher acquired, additionally lacked that particular one thing if solely as a result of its bite-sized anthology format didn’t actually enable for it.
To be truthful, it’s laborious to compete with the Muppets’ lengthy TV historical past—The Muppet Show in particular—which is such a particular, storied factor within the first place. The Muppets’ explicit mix of antics, earnest character work, and movie star metatext works finest when every of these parts is given the time to breathe and intermingle. Sure, them goofing round is nice, however The Muppets Present was extra than simply gags, it was in regards to the interaction between the Muppets as characters that we noticed develop as folks working on a present, but additionally because the personalities that exist to face alongside their movie star visitors as, properly, The Muppets.
Muppets Haunted Mansion then, in the end it appears, actually will get this. Primarily narrative-driven, even with its bonanza forged of movie star appearances, walks a wickedly humorous tightrope. Will Arnett, Taraji P. Henson, Darren Criss, and Yvette Nicole Brown get the meatiest roles, however crucially they’re there as characters moderately than themselves, alongside a really daunting record of movie star cameos as well. The particular is good sufficient to not make the metatext of the basic theme park trip its focus—for followers, it’s bursting with sight gags, in-jokes, and Easter Eggs—and by no means forgets that past the Muppets’ joyful sense of feel-good humor there’s a ton of coronary heart.
Muppets Haunted Mansion does this by largely paring down the quantity of Muppets it must concentrate on. Pepe is basically left to wander in regards to the mansion searching for celebrities and a love life, enjoying proper into the spectral, bloodied arms of one of many trip’s well-known characters, Constance Hatchaway. So actually, the highlight is on Gonzo, who has eschewed attending Kermit’s conventional Halloween bash to try to survive for one night time within the Haunted Mansion, the subsequent massive stunt for the thrillseeking Gonzo the Nice who claims to don’t have any fears. Nothing within the Mansion actually bothers him, principally as a result of it’s quite a lot of singing ghosts and the occasional floating candlestick, as Arnett’s Ghost Host guides him via its halls. However when he comes throughout the dreaded room 999 (which, in fact, inverts its signal the minute he closes its door behind him), Gonzo is confronted with no ghosts or ghouls, no massive horrors, not even an ax-murderer attempting to marry him: however a mirror.
The mirror—and an historical, decrepit model of Gonzo mirrored again at him—reveals him a glimpse at Kermit’s celebration, the place all his mates are having a superb time whereas he’s trapped silently on the opposite aspect. Gonzo’s quest to continually show himself to be Gonzo the Nice has pushed him away from his mates, whilst Kermit tells him (and reminds Scooter simply in time for mirror-Gonzo to overhear) that he doesn’t must be “Gonzo the Nice” to be nice within the eyes of the individuals who care about him probably the most. The plight of Haunted Mansion is not that Gonzo and Pepe need to survive the night time and make it out earlier than daybreak, however that Gonzo simply has to be taught that his mates care about him? That proper there may be some Muppet Present spirit, alive and properly, irrespective of what number of movie star ghosts Gonzo and Pepe need to run via to be taught it.
It’s what makes Haunted Mansion actually sing, alongside the same old gags and, due to Dr. Tooth and the Electrical Mayhem, one pretty killer cover of Dancing within the Moonlight. It seems like Disney letting the Henson Firm do what it does finest with the Muppets—bringing the center alongside the fourth-wall, celeb-jokes, and letting them play on the earth of Disney, moderately than the opposite approach round. It won’t be the spookiest particular of the season, nevertheless it’s most likely going to be one in every of its finest.
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