The Muppets' Wizard Of Oz

The Muppets' Wizard Of Oz (2005)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Ashanti, Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Jeffrey Tambor
Extras: Outtakes, Featurette, Interview

As frequent readers of the site know, I've always been a fan of the Muppets and their movies. Therefore I was very eager to take a look at "The Muppets' Wizard Of Oz, " their latest feature film, taking on the classic tale of "The Wizard Of Oz."

Unfortunately it becomes evident very quickly, that this film sadly missed its mark by leagues. The film immediately starts out with a hip-hop number by star Ashanti, who plays Dorothy in the film. Oookay… so, the story has been transposed into the modern day world, with modern-day teenager ambitions and rap sensibilities. Yikes… I never thought the Muppets would go "urban" to be honest and I could have lived without it. I could also have lived without the sexual innuendo the film has, making it slightly unsuited for small children. "I'm so darn sexy, it hurts," is just no language for a children's movie.

So, Dorothy and her King Prawn Toto get in to the hurricane and end up in the world of Oz where she meets the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the cowardly Lion – only this time they are Kermit the Frog, Gonzo and Fozzie, while Miss Piggy plays… you guessed it… the various incarnations of the good and evil witches.

As you can tell, the glitter sensibilities of the film didn't do anything for me and neither did the changes in the story. The songs that made the classic movie so spectacular have been replaced by really weak numbers, that are incohesive at best and lack any Muppet charm with Ashanti's excessive blue-note tremolo, which is almost as bad as Mariah Carey's, who, literally, cannot sing a straight note without making it sound like a tortured cat. By the same token however, I am positive this film will resonate with the "American Idol" teenage crowd who believe attitude and wishful thinking are the recipe for superstardom, and not even Queen Latifah's warning in the film – and the only line of dialogue with any value – will change any of that – "Do you want to be a star or a singer? Because they're not the same thing."

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has prepared a marvelous transfer for the film. Since it has been produced for television it is presented in its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. Luminous and with rich colors, the presentation is free of any defects and really brings the colorful production to life in all its vivid hues. Blacks are deep and solid and never break up. No edge-enhancement mars the image and the compression is also without flaws.

Presented in 5.1 channel Dolby Digital, the audio presentation is full-bodied and makes full use of the surround channels. Using them for effect mostly, and to enhance the ambiance, the track is active and bustling, filling the entire sound field at all times. Dialogues are well balanced and never drowned out.

As extras the release contains "Oz Oops!," a clip with bloopers and outtakes, as well as Pepe's "Making Of" featurette, giving viewers a peek behind the scenes. Also included is an interview with Quentin Tarantino, who feels he needs to put his face into any movie, it appears. Over 6-minutes of interview are really hard to swallow, especially since both, the purpose of this interview and his appearance in the movie escape my understanding entirely. What is the guy doing in this film, other than annoy people?

Sadly, "The Muppets' Wizard Of Oz" is the worst Muppet movie ever and I hope it is not a sign of a trend that the Muppets are now being turned into some hip-hopping bling-bling icons. It would be a shame for Jim Henson's heritage. The bottom line is that this film is not for Muppet fans. It is for teenies who are not even old enough to know the Muppets. What a misguided concept… what a let-down… …argghh, the pain!