THE MUPPETS' WIZARD OF OZ
Review by Michael Jacobson
Ashanti, Queen Latifah, David Alan Grier, Jeffrey Tambor, Quentin
Director: Kirk R. Thatcher
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: August 9, 2005
happens in Emerald City...STAYS in Emerald City!"
couldn't help but pay attention to that man behind the curtain...or underneath
the stage, as the case may be...when the man was Jim Henson.
Like a wonderful wizard, he breathed life into zany, funny, and memorable
puppet creations, and the magic he created has lasted for generations, even long
after he was no longer with us.
may argue that the Muppet endeavors following his untimely passing haven't quite
lived up to the vision he once shared with us (okay, I'm one of those), but a
true creative spirit never goes down for the count.
With the delightful made-for-TV movie The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, those
lovable creations returned to fine form. And
somewhere, the great wizard himself had to be looking down with a smile.
no movie version of Oz will ever live up to the 1939 classic, but no
matter...in the hands of the Muppets, tried and true tales frequently get modern
and comical twists that win the audiences over.
This update may not appeal to L. Frank Baum purists, but for the Muppet
lover in all of us, it's a great slice of family fun.
enough, the other Oz (that would be Frank) was not on board for this production.
Was he missed? Not really. Eric
Jacobson (no relation) is now puppeteering Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy, and as a
fan who watches the Muppets with scrutiny, I have to say, I didn't notice much
Kermit has changed hands to Steve Whitmire, and the result is a breath of fresh
air. Brian Henson is a nice guy and
deserves a lot of credit for keeping his father's vision alive, but as the voice
of Kermit, he left a lot to be desired.
story opens with a music video sequence, complete with title information in the
lower corner of the screen. The
singer is Dorothy Gale (Ashanti), who works as a waitress in a Kansas diner with
her Aunt Em (Latifah) and Uncle Henry (Grier).
dreams of getting out and becoming a star, but she just narrowly misses her
opportunity to audition for the Muppets. Then...wouldn't
you know it...a tornado rips through, carrying her and her doublewide, along
with her pet king prawn Toto (Pepe), into a magical new land.
"Where the..." she asks. "Hold
it!" cries Toto, looking at the screen.
"For those of you with Dark Side of the Moon, press
has arrived in Munchkinland, where the Munchkins look suspiciously like rats.
Her trailer has accidentally killed the Wicked Witch of the East (Miss
Piggy plays ALL four witches), picks up a pair of magic shoes, and sets off down
the yellow brick road to seek help from the great Wizard of Oz to help her
achieve her dream of stardom.
the way, of course, she picks up a few friends: Scarecrow (Kermit), who wants a brain, the Tin Thing (Gonzo),
needing a heart, and Cowardly Lion (Fozzie), who wants to be a stand-up comedian
but suffers from stage fright. All
join Dorothy in her quest to see the Wizard...but the Wicked Witch of the West
(you-know-who) has some evil designs of her own!
of this is silly, lighthearted fun, of course, with plenty of gags to spare.
My favorite is in Emerald City, when Dorothy enters Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's
Makeover Machine and comes out the other side looking like...ah, no, I'll let
you discover that for yourself.
eventually a big showdown between Dorothy and the Witch, and just as we reach
the big action climax, there's a hilarious cut that shows Quentin Tarantino
pitching his idea for a mega-violent samurai sword battle between the two to an
increasingly nervous Kermit!
course, alls well that ends well, and there's no place like home...but
thankfully, our Dorothy gets the best of both worlds: a loving family, and a shot at her dream.
Hey, with the Muppets, anything is possible!
had a big smile on my face from beginning to end...and I'm glad to say the DVD
fleshes out the TV version with an additional 20 minutes of footage, so it feels
like you're seeing a true feature film. Home
may be where the heart is, and my heart is still with the Muppets after nearly
is a pretty good looking full frame transfer for Disney...the world of Oz is a
colorful one, from the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, and all the tones
come across with cleanness and clarity. I
noticed no bleeding or lack of focus. Images
were generally sharp and crisp throughout with only a touch of softness here and
5.1 mix is a lively one, making the music sound big and loud and giving some
extra punch to the big scenes. Dialogue
is clearly rendered throughout (okay, I can't understand ALL of what Pepe says,
but what the hey), and dynamic range is formidable.
much in the extras department...an amusing gag reel, a short making-of
featurette hosted by Pepe, and Pepe's interview with Quentin Tarantino. I'd
have enjoyed the last two more if not for the fact that Pepe is one of my least
favorite Muppet creations.