Recently, I was given the rare opportunity to take a peek at the script to the upcoming Fraggle Rock movie. Although writer/director Cory Edwards seems pretty optimistic about the film on his blog (naturally), I fell on the cautious side of that, assuming that the movie will be “good,” with the possibility of “not good enough” right around the corner.
Thankfully after reading the script, most of my fears were diminished. The script could definitely lend itself to a classic family film if done right. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be ignoring the fact that the original cast might not be coming back. Jerry Nelson is, for all purposes, retired, and I’m doubtful that Steve Whitmire, Kathy Mullen, and Dave Goelz would return to the Rock. Karen Prell, on the other hand, is the biggest Fraggle Rock fan on either side of the Mississippi, so I’d be surprised if she refused Red’s revival.
I will be doing my best to keep this review spoiler-free. Releasing spoilers is no fun for the movie-going public, and it’s really not my place to reveal specific details. I will however be answering what questions I can on the ToughPigs forum and via e-mail, so feel free to contact me either way. Just don’t be insulted if I refuse to answer your question for spoiler-related reasons.
To start with, I should say that the movie doesn’t fit in with the timeline of the Fraggle Rock series. The movie isn’t a reimagining or a reboot, but it will be fruitless to try and nitpick on the continuity. The mythology of “Fraggle holes” that was revealed toward the end of the series doesn’t factor into it, nor does the relationships between species. But everything is recognizable, from the characters to the traditions to the postcards. I suppose that’s what happens when you try to make a movie based off of a 25-year-old TV show.
The movie, tentatively called Fraggle Rock: The Movie (clever, no?) is about the Fraggle Five (along with special guest Cotterpin Doozer) searching for Uncle Traveling Matt in Outer Space. It begins with a scene of Doc and Sprocket, just like every episode of the TV show. After a quick intro, we’re sucked into Fraggle Rock ala the opening credits, and newer viewers (read: your nephew) gets a great introduction to what Fraggles are and how their culture works. So far, so good.
Cory Edwards is definitely a fan of the show, as he shows us by giving the one-off lines that would normally be credited to “Fraggle #5” to characters we’d recognize, giving them cameos only the real fans would appreciate. The Storyteller, Tosh, Morris, Rumple, Marlon, and Large Marvin all make appearances, though there are some missing characters I’d expect to see, like the World’s Oldest Fraggle, who will hopefully make an appearance in the final version.
The Fraggles’ misunderstanding of our culture is done in a humorous way, highlighted mostly by their discovery of a cell phone, which Wembley mistakes for a pet. Hilarity, as you can imagine, ensues.
Any ill feelings I had about the script fell away once Marjory the Trash Heap, with Philo and Gunge, made her appearance. She’s written perfectly, giving the Fraggles the advice they think they need (though not exactly what she tried to say). Sadly, they’re in just one scene, but it’s a fun and familiar one.
Once in Outer Space, Doc and Sprocket play a supporting role to Doc’s adult-aged grandson, Randy. Randy becomes our guide through the real world as Doc and Sprocket sleep in the workshop or sit on park benches while the adventures pass them by. Though it’ll be sad to lose the dynamic of Doc and Sprocket, if Edwards can get Gerry Parkes to reprise his role, it would be well worth it just to see him on screen again. I’m a little torn on how I feel about Randy though. If he’s performed well, he could be tolerable, but there’s a lot of potential for corniness and irritation. He also sings a couple songs with the Fraggles throughout the movie, so it will be a challenge to portray that without looking ridiculous.
Once outside, the Fraggles really start to show their faded colors. By that, I mean they lose a bit of the characterization that once made them great. Each of the Fraggles is inherently faulty, but those traits become somewhat muted in the film. Gobo is a strong leader but not quite as cocky, Red is tough but not as competitive, Wembley is silly but doesn’t wemble, etc. One interesting addition, however, is Cotterpin Doozer, who tags along for the adventure. Cotterpin has suddenly become a mechanical whiz, getting the Fraggles out of a jam or two in their time of need. I always liked Cotterpin, and it was nice to see her show up the Fraggles when they got blindingly confused about things (as they are wont to do).
Unfortunately, Cory Edwards got into the same trouble as the cover artists for the Fraggle Rock DVDs, and that is not being able to find a proper place for Mokey. Mokey is left without much of a role, even stepping out entirely during a side-quest. I understand that she’s a hard character to write for, but it will be unfortunate to see her with a diminished role compared to her Fraggle brethren. I can only assume that the Mokey merchandise will suffer the most.
Once we find Uncle Traveling Matt, he is as aloof and hilarious as ever. In fact, my favorite parts of the script involve Matt as he acts oblivious to the increasing danger around him. Edwards definitely got his voice down pat, and he’ll hopefully be a highlight for everyone once he’s on screen.
Most of the stunts and special effects written into the script were obviously made to work to the strengths of the Muppet Workshop. It seems that Edwards will be true to his word regarding few, if any, computer animated effects. One scene in particular tickled my fancy. Picture the scene from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with the historical celebrities wreaking havoc in the mall. Now picture it with Fraggles instead of dead celebs, and you’ve got comedy gold.
Edwards also kept true to his word regarding pop culture references, of which the script is completely devoid. In fact, aside from the cell phone, the whole movie could take place in 1987. Only two specific celebrity cameos are in the film (two celebs in one scene), and they made me laugh audibly, so I give them my stamp of approval.
One very large missing element that you may have noticed is the Gorgs, which do not appear in the script at all. Understandably, the Gorgs wouldn’t fit in with this storyline, but it’s a shame that such an important part of the series is completely omitted. Then again, that’s why Thomas Edison invented the sequel.
In all, the script was very enjoyable, and audiences unfamiliar with Fraggle Rock will probably get a lot out of it. But if you’re looking to nitpick the mythology and the voices (as I’m sure I will too), I think there will be a lot of cracks in the framework. But maybe that’s the best we can hope for if Henson and Cory Edwards want to attempt to revive the franchise.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that Edwards is still rewriting the script, so there might be big changes in the final product. So feel free to assume that anything I said in the above article is hogwash. Hogwash, I say!
Stop by later this week when I’ll review Jason Segel’s upcoming Muppet movie script!
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