DVD Review: The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
by R.J. Carter
Published: August 7, 2005
Poor Dorothy. Life in a Kansas trailer park working in a diner with Uncle Henry (GRIER) and Aunt Em (LATIFAH) isn't less than what she hoped for herself. But when the Muppets come through auditioning for singers, she realizes she has a chance to shake the dust bowl off her shoes and make it big. Unfortunately, the aspiring singer (ASHANTI) is too late, and only arrives in time to shove a demo tape to Kermit as their bus pulls away.
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
Dejected, she makes her way back to her old life. But fate has other plans, as a tornado whips through town, whisking Dorothy and Toto (a king prawn named Pepe) to Oz. Soon she's surrounded by munchkins (played by Muppet rats) and finds herself in possession of the magical silver slippers (a point of detail where this version of the story actually aligns more with the L. Frank Baum children's classic than did the famous MGM movie.)
Then it's off to meet the Wizard (TAMBOR) who is the one person who can give Dorothy what she wants. A way home? No. Superstardom. And on her way to the Emerald City, she meets the expected cast of characters: the Scarecrow (KERMIT), the Tin Man (GONZO) and the Cowardly Lion (FOZZIE), all of whom believe themselves to be in need of things they already possess. But before he'll grant them anything, they must first dispose of the Wicked Witch of the West, represented by Miss Piggy, who pulls a quadruple role in this film playing the Wicked Witch of the East and the Good Witch of the North and South.
So does Dorothy learn that there's no place like home when it's all said and done? No. Rather, the lesson is learned by Aunt Em, who decides to now support Dorothy's dream of going on the road and singing with the Muppets.
Replete with non-sequiturs and over-kids'-head jokes, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz never really lives up to its potential or to the legacy of its Henson-produced predecessors, The Muppet Movie or Muppets Take Manhattan. The magic just isn't there.
Previews on this DVD include the theatrical trailer for Valiant and a teaser for Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, as well as previews for DVD releases of The Muppet Show Season One, Kermit's 50th Anniversary set, and selectable advertisements for My Scene Goes Hollywood: The Movie, Halloweentown movies, According to Jim and Radio Disney.
In keeping with the illusion that the Muppets are actors, the bonus features are mostly conducted and introduced by Pepe, the King Prawn. In "Backstage Disney," Pepe interviews just about everybody on the set, people and Muppets alike, showing the backlot and the props. It's seven minutes of backstage discussion, that's not truly backstage. I'd have preferred half the time with one of the Muppet performers showing how they pull off the magic of making the characters come alive.
Pepe also appears in an "Extended Interview with Quentin Tarantino," which is a longer (six minutes longer) segment of the mini-clip that ran in the "Backstage Disney" featurette. Tarantino chats about how he prepared to play himself in the film, and how he may have cast Muppets in his past films had the opportunity arose.
Rounding out the special features is a nearly five-minute segment of "Outtakes and Blooper: Oz Oops!" where Muppets forget their lines and suffer various prop problems.
Bonus Features: B+