The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
It is interesting how
many times someone reads about a TV show concept, only to ask, "Why haven't they ever thought
of this before?" Then you see the final product, which answers that question in
spades...and very sadly. The Muppet Wizard of Oz
sounded like a slam-dunk
for ABC. Yet something went wrong. No; not terribly
Perhaps someone just got
drunk with all the ease this concept seemingly had. Take a classic movie. Add
Muppets. Make Fozzie the lion. Make Gonzo the Tin Man. Make Kermit the scarecrow. Make
Miss Piggy a dual role as the good and bad witches. Add a young
as Dorothy. What could go wrong? Well...it did. That's all I
You get the first sign of
something mistaken happening here, when the ratings logo appears; "PG."
Huh?!? This is supposedly a remake of a classic musical.
What's with the Parental Guidance warning? Well, see; some marketing
honcho apparently thought that to appeal to the junior high age bracket they had to
add a few sex jokes. We'll be getting to how low these sex jokes fall soon
enough, but let's just put it this way: PG
"Wizard of Oz." Who approved that wacky
after the shock of the rating logo passes, we meet Toto the dog...er,
shrimp?...No..."prawn." What's a prawn? Well, it's an edible
shrimp with a bug like head and...oh, whatever. It's a walking bug-looking
thing, as the dog in the movie. In fairness: one other time
I remember seeing this Muppet was Muppets in Space, where he admittedly
stole the show. He doesn't manage to steal anything here however. He's
just a running gag that never makes the cut; a fish-like Toto, instead of
a dog. This is funny at first but with every successive scene it
seems more peculiar.
A prawn as Toto is a bad
decision, to be sure. Yet no sight will have
diehard Muppet fans chanting "Worst. Decision. Ever," like
the moment the Wizard morphs into a sexy video game style character(!), then into a giant chicken(!!), all while trying to seduce Gonzo(!!!). What in the name of parenthood was
someone thinking here? Yeah it's an old Muppet Show joke that
Gonzo loves chickens, but for whatever reason that joke never seemed so,
well..."icky." This is a scene to go down in infamy as the worst
Muppet movie joke of all time. What. Were. They. Thinking?!?
Sadly; this is just
oddball scene in a very "PG" Wizard of OZ. For whatever reason
we must be constantly reminded that "Toto"
feels that he's a sex magnet. This reaches fever pitch when right out of the
blue, Toto turns the knobs on "Tin" Gonzo's chest, wondering
what they do. Oh, they do nothing, muses Gonzo; those are his nipples. If
this is someone's idea of family friendly humor, I'd hate to see their
idea of an R rated film. I doubt even HBO would ever air it.
Not that I'm a purist
against PG humor. It's just that, if you wish to tarnish a family friendly
story with potty humor, at least have it be funny to adults, or
maybe high school kids, or...anybody, really. I must admit a chuckle at the sight of "good witch"
Miss Piggy goosing Kermit. However, by the majority, all sexual innuendo falls flat.
It's not that this film
didn't have great source material from two fronts. Parents will remember
both a far superior original film (The Wizard of Oz) as well as far
superior original Muppet jokes (The Muppet Show). Yet these two
great sources of family fun, in this case, seem to hinder more than
compliment each other. Whose idea was it to turn the Wicked Witch of the
West into a biker chick? Probably the same guy who turned the field of poppy's
into an underground "rave" club, of sorts. These are supposed to be
jokes, yet only seem like bad decisions.
It's not that the movie
is without any good points. It's just that there is so little of it.
However, let's give kudos wherever they're due. The duo in charge of the Wizard's FX magic are Dr. Honeydew and
Beaker; a cute added touch.
Another cute idea was to make the munchkins 100 percent "P.C.,"
by making it a land of rats, with Rizzo their mayor. Upgrading Dorothy's
Woodsman" into an internet-friendly robot was a cute
modern touch, even if it never goes anywhere. There's also an amusing cameo by Quentin Tarantino where he
tries to sell the idea to "film producer" Kermit about a final
battle with samurai swords, only to have Kermit decide, nah, let's just
have Dorothy comically toss the witch across the room instead. There's
also any number of cute cameos of classic Muppet icons,
from The Frog Prince's "Sweetums" to The Muppet Show's
old bickering duo, Statler and Waldorf, and from Scooter to Sam Eagle as
well. Those were some cute moments.
I also must give a
favorable thumbs up to Ashanti as Dorothy. The idea of an African-American
as Dorothy would only peeve the most diehard of purists, because they did
have the right idea: a young singer for the lead role. They just didn't execute that idea to
perfection. By choosing a singer as Dorothy one would hope for this to
be a better musical than it is, with more than just one slightly
acceptable opening song, one snoozer of a modern-Sesame-Street style song
about friendship, and a closing song that is simply the victim of bad
timing. By that point you just want to finish this whole
In the end, it's a shame
that this movie was done so poorly, on all fronts. For one thing there is
indeed a strong desire for a more modern Wizard of Oz. Yet this low budget
TV movie isn't it. It is one thing to scoff at someone handed lemons yet
unable to make lemonade. It's far easier to scoff at someone handed two
gems and deciding to crush them into sand instead. This isn't that bad,
but...what was up with that giant chicken trying to seduce Gonzo? That's
just not family friendly television.
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