Home > Reviews > MUPPETS FROM SPACE – Jamshied Sharifi and Rupert Gregson-Williams

MUPPETS FROM SPACE – Jamshied Sharifi and Rupert Gregson-Williams

muppetsfromspaceOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Perhaps it has something to do with my own preconceptions about films starring fuzzy puppets, but I never expect Muppet movies to have any good music in them. Of course, in the past, composers as eminent as Hans Zimmer and the late Miles Goodman have lent their talents to the adventures of Henson’s creations, but come on! How can a film in which the majority of the main characters are sculpted bits of material with a guy’s hand jammed up their asses produce anything worthwhile? Well, it can, and this time I have been proved wrong by the combined talents of Jamshied Sharifi and Rupert Gregson-Williams, whose music turns out to be surprisingly enjoyable, if a little lightweight and more than a little derivative.

I never was a great fan of The Muppet Show when it was shown on British TV, and I never became enamored by the exploits of Kermit, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and the gang. However, I am well aware of their significance in American pop culture, however, and can fully appreciate the impact they had on millions of children (and adults!) around the globe. The latest Muppet movie is Muppets From Space, a knowing satire of recent hits such as Men In Black and Independence Day. The premise of the film is concerned with Gonzo (the blue one with the crooked nose) finding out that he is, in fact, an alien from another planet, which explains why he has never before encountered anyone who looks like him. Aided and abetted by his furry companions and a gaggle of Hollywood stars in need of a bit of extra cash (including Ray Liotta, F. Murray Abraham, David Arquette, Andie MacDowall and Hulk Hogan!), Gonzo sets about seeking out his fellow extra-terrestrials.

The music is by up-and-coming composer Jamshied Sharifi, whose only other major credit to date was the successful 1997 children’s comedy Harriet The Spy. Sharifi’s work is a clever combination of fully orchestral numbers with moments of jazz and blues thrown in for good measure, but it’s not too difficult to work out what was on director Tim Hill’s temp track. To be fair to Sharifi and his temp editor, the choices are all good ones. The recurring theme for Gonzo, as heard in ‘Gonzo’s Lament’, ‘Moment of Glory’ and the surprisingly gorgeous ‘Gonzo’s Goodbye’, bears a striking resemblance to Danny Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands, and there are other moments frequently reminiscent of Men In Black and James Horner’s Cocoon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the quasi-spiritual ‘The Ships Arrive’ and even Lalo Schifrin’s Rush Hour-style funk in ‘Piggy and the Mibs’.

Counterbalancing the orchestral bombast are several cues of unexpectedly funky saxophone-led jazz, including ‘Fanatics For Aliens’, ‘Gonzo on TV’, ‘Muppet Labs’ and the superb ‘Rats In Prison’, performed by the aptly named London Metropolitan Big Band. Contributing addition music to the album is British composer Rupert Gregson-Williams, the older brother of Media Ventures composer Harry, who effectively plays yang to Sharifi’s ying. While Sharifi gets all the juicy emotional bits, Gregson-Williams is the film’s straight man, and his main contribution is a dark and dramatic motif for the villain of the piece, heard in his cues ‘Singer’s Theme’, ‘Singer Turns The Screws’, ‘Rentro’ and the militaristic, patriotic ‘The Really Big Gun’.

If you are the kind of film score fan who freaks out when confronted with blatantly obvious pastiches, you would do well to avoid this album in case it drives them insane. Jamshied Sharifi and Rupert Gregson-Williams are obviously talented composers, and both show an aptitude for handling a large orchestra with ease, but I feel that they will need to show a great deal of originality from their future work if they are to graduate to scoring films not starring animated bits of fluff. For what it is, Muppets From Space works on its own terms, and is enjoyable enough as a standalone listen. But, like the Muppets themselves, it is fun on the outside but hollow in the middle.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/The Ark (2:40)
  • Gonzo’s Lament (1:00)
  • Singer’s Theme (2:02)
  • Through The Stars (0:44)
  • Fanatics For Aliens (0:53)
  • Gonzo on TV (1:20)
  • Muppet Labs (1:51)
  • Piggy and the Mibs (2:27)
  • Singer Turns the Screws (2:13)
  • Rats In Prison (1:43)
  • Rentro (1:58)
  • Muppet Infiltration (1:42)
  • Porcine Wiles (1:07)
  • Rescuing Gonzo (3:03)
  • To The Beach (2:05)
  • The Ships Arrive (3:33)
  • Moment of Glory (0:32)
  • The Really Big Gun (1:58)
  • Gonzo’s Goodbye (3:06)
  • Boldly Gone (0:55)

Running Time: 37 minutes 33 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6060 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Jamshied Sharifi. Performed by The London Metropolitan Orchestra and The London Metropolitan Big Band. Orchestrations by Miyuki Sakamoto, Ole Mathisen and John Bell. Additional music composed and conducted by Rupert Gregson-Williams. Featured musical soloist Ole Mathisen. Recorded and mixed by Nick Wollage. Album produced by Jamshied Sharifi, Rupert Gregson-Williams and Maggie Rodford.

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