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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // August 9, 2005
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted August 9, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Since Jim Henson passed away, a little bit of whatever it was that he brought to his most famous creations, The Muppets, has faded. That's not to say that these classic characters aren't still amusing or that none of the jokes are funny anymore, because that just isn't the case, but without Henson around steering the franchise, it really just hasn't been the same. Disney has tried to keep things going with mixed results but the charm and the wit that Henson personally infused into his characters isn't as strong as it used to be and because of that, some of the charm is gone.

Which brings us to the almost completely soulless entity that is The Muppets Wizard Of Oz. You'd think that mixing the classic characters of The Muppets and transposing them into the wonderful world of The Wizard Of Oz would be a sure fire winner, right? Well, maybe not.

Pop chanteusse Ashanti plays Dorothy this time out. As everyone knows by now, she gets whisked away to Oz (after missing her audition for The Muppets) with her little pet prawn Pepe where she finds herself in Munchkin land. When she finds that The Wicked Witch of the East has been flattened by her trailer which made it through the tornado with her, she steals her shoes and trucks on down the Yellow Brick Road to find the Wizard of Oz who will help her return home to the land she knows and belongs to. Along the way she'll make friends with the Scarecrow (Kermit The Frog), The Cowardly Lion (Fozzie Bear), and The Tin Thing (The Great Gonzo) and they'll find that they're able to help each other in more ways than one on their mutual voyages.

It's a simple and fun tale that's been told plenty of times before with some truly fantastic results and some not so worthy entries as well. This one, sadly, floats a little closer to the bottom than to the upper echelon of Oz tales and the main reason for that is the casting of Ashanti in the lead role. In the past, the interaction between the real life human beings in the films and the puppets felt right. Maybe not natural, per say, but right. They clicked, the y had chemistry, and the flesh and bone performers called in to work with the puppets simply 'got it.' Ashanti, on the other hand, might as well be acting alongside a bunch of rocks as she has all the enthusiasm of a piece of driftwood. Sure, she's got a solid voice and she can sing and on that note the musical numbers are pretty successful but overall, her presence doesn't do anything except hurt the film in the long run. Adding a pop star to the cast is a good idea in and of itself what with the Muppets' penchant for breaking into song now and again, but unfortunately Ms. Ashanti looks about as natural alongside the characters as a two headed dog.

To make matters worse, Miss Piggy is not voiced by Frank Oz and his presence is sorely missed during the scenes in which she plays a prominent role (all of the witch roles are handled by Piggy). Eric Jacobson handles Piggy's voice and Fozzie's voice and while he gets close to Oz's vocal prowess, it just doesn't sound close enough and throughout the film it was painfully obvious that Frank Oz was absent from the movie. Kermit is voiced by Steve Whitmire who honestly doesn't do a half bad job with the material but who simply isn't Jim Henson.

Another sizeable problem with the film is that the Muppets themselves just aren't in the movie enough. Ashanti dominates the screen time here and even Kermit, usually the focus of the Muppets films along with Miss Piggy, is demoted down to a supporting role rather than a large starring role as it should be.

On a more positive note, there are a few fun spots littered in amongst the not so hot Ashanti bits. Pepe has got some good lines in the movie (listen for a fun Pink Floyd reference that kids will probably miss but that adults should get a kick out of) and the scene where Dorothy and her friends visit Dr. Honeydew in the Emerald City lends itself to some humorous results. When Dorothy and the Wicked Witch gear up for their showdown, Quentin Tarantino tries to talk Kermit into doing it Kill Bill style which is such an odd idea for the Muppets to spin into a movie that it actually ends up working in spite of itself. His appearance is completely unnecessary and adds nothing at all to the plot or the film, really, but the premise is too strange not to work. David Allen Grier has a small supporting role here as well, and he's funny whenever he's on screen just because he's David Allen Grier.

Had a more enthusiastic actress been cast in the lead role, The Muppets Wizard Of Oz

could have worked and worked well but with such a wooden main performance it's hard to escape into the movie like we were able to do with earlier films in the series and that really hurts this one in the long run. As it stands, it's an interesting failure and one with a few shining moments but a failure none the less.



The movie is presented on this DVD as it was shown on television, in 1.33.1 fullscreen. The colors look quite good, especially the yellows, reds and greens used so often throughout the movie. There's a pretty decent level of both foreground and background detail present in the picture as well, which is nice to see. There is some mild edge enhancement and some noticeable shimmering in certain scenes scattered throughout the movie but the black levels remain consistent and strong throughout the duration there are no noticeable problems with mpeg compression artifacts or pixilation.


The disc comes complete with an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix that makes nice use of the rear speakers especially during the musical sequences. The dialogue and background noise are mixed together nicely and there aren't any problems to report in terms of hiss or distortion seeping into the proceedings. While there were a few scenes that could have had a little more punch in the low end, this is a Muppets film after all and it isn't going to sound like The Matrix nor should it, really. There are no alternate language dubs or subtitles provided, though there is an English language closed captioning option present.


As far as extra features go, there's a moderately amusing gag reel that features some fun outtake clips, there's a short making of documentary that is hosted by Pepe, and there's an interview with Quentin Tarantino conducted, again, by Pepe. The documentary is reasonably interesting and worth checking out if you're into the behind the scenes footage but it's too brief to really provide anything of substance. The Tarantino interview is amusing but not so much because of the content, but because of the novelty of the whole idea.

Final Thoughts:

While the audio and video are pretty nice and the extras are okay, Muppets Wizard Of Oz just doesn't rank up there with the best of the Muppets films so far and in fact, it's quite possibly the worst of the lot. Even if you're a big time Muppets fan, you'll probably want to rent this one as it does have a few shining moments but as far as consistency and replay value go, this film just doesn't have what it takes. Skip it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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