Houston Coley’s review published on Letterboxd:
OLD DECREPIT GONZO PUPPET, OLD DECREPIT GONZO PUPPET!
ELECTRIC MAYHEM OVER THE CREDITS!
ADORABLE CLASSIC GHOSTS FROM THE MUPPET SHOW!
BANGER MUSICAL NUMBERS THAT FEEL GOOFY AND FUN!
CHARACTER ACTOR CELEBRITY CAMEOS THAT LET THE MUPPETS SHINE!
SCREAMING GOAT! DUN DUN DUN SKELETONS!
MADAME PIGOTA! BRILLIANT!
I was initially bummed that this was only 50 minutes and it feels a lot less "cinematic" than the recent-ish theatrical releases like The Muppets 2011, but upon the (many, many) rewatches, it all vibes like a lovely throwback to the made-for-TV Muppets specials that I grew up borrowing on DVD from the library - something I never thought we'd get to see again. The short runtime and the mostly gag-based plot makes this whole thing feel refreshingly breezy and charming - and also helps excuse some of the lower-budget moments.
If I do have one major complaint, it's that the Haunted Mansion itself never really gets to feel like tangible place because so much of the special uses digital backgrounds, green-screened puppet performances, and artificial camera movement. For a medium like puppetry that's so impressive because it feels so tangible and uses to many practical effects (see: Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) it's unfortunate that lots of this special has such a sheen of digital fakery, but alas, I'm happy whenever I see the funny nose daredevil stunt muppet onscreen.
Thank god Gonzo was the protagonist so that we didn't have to hear Fake Kermit™ for an hour! I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed that big ghost musical number in the ballroom. Seeing so many creative muppets onscreen never ceases to be the best feeling in the world - and so many fun returning faces! And did I mention that I like that the heart of this special comes from Gonzo? I'm a little neither-here-nor-there on the Pepe The Prawn stuff; Pepe is fun but he's never felt like a particularly dynamic character beyond the basic "heheheh" shtick. Nevertheless, Gonzo's final realization of his fear was such an adorably heartfelt moment that felt like such a callback to the end of Jim's era and some of Brian Henson's early stuff. The simplicity of this whole thing is so refreshing and nostalgic and I want more right now. I nearly cried during the credits. I love The Muppets.