Sixteen-year-old Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is given thirteen hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother Toby (Toby Froud) when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King Jareth (David Bowie).
A TV special starring Lady Gaga and the Muppets packs a lot of promise, especially when the special is titled "Lady Gaga & The Muppets' Holiday Spectacular". If you notice the repetitiveness of that last sentence, it's to prove a point.
This special appeared to be less "Lady Gaga & the Muppets" and more "Lady Gaga featuring the Muppets". Consequently, even the word "Spectacular" in the show's title proved to be an excessive overstatement.
Lady Gaga is among the most polarizing pop stars today. People either like her or hate her, but no one can deny her talent, stage presence, or that certain X factor that relevant pop stars possess.
So this review would not be complete without this reviewer expressing how he feels about her. And truthfully, I like Lady Gaga. I think her songs are often times great, she owns every stage performance without a hint of gregariousness or desperation, and she was phenomenally great as host and musical guest of "Saturday Night Live" last month.
It just astonishes me that, while she worked so well alongside SNL cast members, the interactions between her and the Muppets were noticeably finite and pithy. Yes, Kermit sat alongside her as she sang a surprisingly touching rendition of her own "Gypsy", and there was a scene with her and the other Muppets brainstorming over a final act. There was also Miss Piggy's usual fame envy complete with karate chops.
However, when it came to many of the other musical numbers, the Muppets were noticeably absent. The exceptions were the songs where the major Muppet players seemingly rushed onto the scene near the end to lip sync the given song's final chorus.
Lady Gaga was right in toning down the sexuality of her musical numbers, wisely resulting in her performances of "Applause" in this special bearing little resemblance to her overtly carnal music video. You saw dance numbers mostly involving men in tuxedos, but no . . . well, Muppets!
Did the writers and choreographers of this special even see "The Muppet Show"? If they did, they could have, and should have, taken inspiration from famous episodes with Diana Ross performing "Love Hangover" alongside giant Muppet birds, or Raquel Welch dancing with a gargantuan black spider. Even Alice Cooper danced with Sweetums, Doglion, and other large Muppets when he sang "School's Out".
Sure, "The Muppet Show" left the airwaves over 30 years ago, but the box office success of "The Muppets" (2011) proved that people still had a soft spot in their heart for it. Plus, that movie succeeded because the Muppets were all doing things that were interesting and unique to their given personalities.
Here, they just pad Lady Gaga's stage appearances, and that's not enough. Especially because the special was partially intended to promote the upcoming movie "Muppets Most Wanted", the Muppets deserve better.
There's really no fault in Lady Gaga's song performances, especially her charming duets with Elton John, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and even RuPaul. However, if she's sharing top billing with the Muppets, they should be treated like co-headliners, not opening acts.
As a result, "Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular" could have been most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, and Muppetational. Instead, it was . . . okay.
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