It is hard to believe that it has been ten years ago since The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz aired on ABC’s The Wonderful World of Disney. It marked the second television movie for the gang, but most importantly, it was also the first major production for the Muppets after Disney acquired the property in 2004. Long-time Muppet fans like yours truly worried what the acquisition would mean for the Muppets and what Disney may do to those beloved characters. The movie would be Disney’s maiden voyage with the Muppets, and it was not a smooth journey! This time, Dorothy (Ashanti) lives with her Aunt Em (Queen Latifah) and Uncle Henry (David Alan Greer). She works with them in their diner but dreams of being a huge pop star. When the Muppets pass through her town as part of the auditions portion of their show Muppets Star Hunt, Dorothy sees her chance to break into show business. Dorothy unfortunately misses the audition but runs into the Muppets’ tour bus in time to give Kermit her demo. When a tornado strikes, Dorothy and Toto, her pet prawn, are transported to Oz. In this version, Dorothy does not seek the Wizard (Jeffrey Tambor) to try to return home. She wants the Wizard to grant her fame. Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow (Kermit), The Tin Thing (Gonzo), and of course, the Cowardly Lion (Fozzie) who all join her journey to see the Wizard and each ask for a brain, heart, and courage respectively. Dorothy also meets Tattypoo, the Good Witch of the North; Glinda, the Good Witch of the South; accidentally lands on the Wicked Witch of the East; and battles the Wicked Witch of the West (Miss Piggy in a quadruple role). Overall, the writers have made great use of the Muppet characters to cast the main roles. Kermit, the level-headed leader of the Muppets, most aesthetically looks like the character of the Scarecrow, but he could have also made a mean Tin Man who needed a heart (perhaps to fall in love with one of the Miss Piggy characters in a subplot?). Gonzo’s weirdo/whatever/alien status does make him a nice fit for the robotic Tin Thing character, complete with cell-phone nose. Fozzie’s history of being nervous and cowardly makes him a perfect fit as the bumbling Cowardly Lion. It is Pepe the Prawn as Toto that irks me. First of all, I am not a fan of his character. I feel that his character is a more annoying version of Rizzo the Rat. Not only are they both small puppets, but they are also wisecracking, ladies men…eh…you get the point. Pepe in the 2000s has replaced the reign of Rizzo from the 1990s, but his constantly ending a sentence in “okay” and overuse of pop culture references gets old quickly. The prawn was not needed to play Toto, a dog’s role, when the Muppet cast of characters already had a dog (Rowlf) that could have provided some dry humor to the movie. Rowlf merely appears as a background character, having been largely retired after Henson’s death. Rowlf would have totally changed Toto’s humor to clever and funny instead of the constant sexual innuendoes and pop culture references which ultimately date the movie. It is actually a lack of pop culture references that make The Muppet Movie, Muppets Take Manhattan, and The Great Muppet Caper timeless films that are still funny decades later. The best move that the writers made was utilizing Miss Piggy as all of the witches. This explored the many sides to Miss Piggy’s personality. The strength and rage she used to use to karate-chop Kermit on The Muppet Show made her a perfect Wicked Witch of the West. Her demur innocence and femininity allowed her to embody the roles of Tattypoo and Glinda. And in great Miss Piggy fashion, she literally stole the show from Dorothy in her tuen as the Wicked Witch of the West. The best scenes included the Wicked Witch of the West or Glinda. Just like the characters in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, the Muppets play themselves in the beginning of the film and then have Oz counterparts. Miss Piggy’s performance as the different witches make her actual Miss Piggy counterpart in the beginning and finale bookends of the movie a bit bland and forgettable. The movie itself is forgettable and underwhelming. If anything, it is the mistakes in the movie that stick out in my mind. Ashanti’s performance was boring and her acting was terrible. Each year, high school productions across the country feature better Dorothy’s than Ashanti’s portrayal. The theme of Dorothy seeking fame was reminiscent of the Muppets’ journeys for fame in The Muppet Movie and Muppets Take Manhattan, but her performance was so lackluster that I did not feel invested in Dorothy and did not really care if she “made it.” Not only was Rowlf misused, the Electric Mayhem Band was underused as well. They fit in perfectly in the psychedelic night club Poppy Field where Dorothy and her crew were put to sleep, but they could have popped up throughout the movie at different points. The inclusion of newer characters from Muppets Tonight and Muppet Treasure Island worked well from the Flying Monkeys biker gang, but Johnny Fiama as the Wicked Witch’s right hand man and love interest was weird for me. Miss Piggy belongs with Kermit or at least in love with Kermit, end of story. No deviation allowed. Scooter, who played the gofer and the stage manager in The Muppet Show really found his niche as the Wizard’s assistant. He was funny and completely on point. It was the best use of Scooter in the history of the Muppets. This movie is often criticized as over-sexualizing the Muppets. Pepe is constantly referring to being sexy and makes references to Girls Gone Wild. People claim Henson would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the Muppets were saying “sexy.” The Muppets, however, have always contained a certain amount of adult humor. Animal chasing after women in bikinis and Miss Piggy objectifying leading men are classic Muppet bits. It was cartoony and funny when Miss Piggy made out with stars. Janice has also been overheard saying she visits a nude beach in the past. These were examples of adult humor, not sexualized characters targeting children with their wicked ways. There is a part in this movie that I find almost as disturbing as Scooter as a cage dancer in A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. At one point, Pepe is twisting bolts on the front of Gonzo’s chest plate and Gonzo points out that these are his nipples. I am not sure if it is the just the fact that Gonzo said the word “nipples” that made me feel like a creepy pervo or the fact that Pepe was twisting them. At any rate, this was a bizarre statement that had no place in the movie. Don’t get me wrong: Muppets’ Wizard of Oz did a lot of things right. Writers visited source material from a classic book which had proven to work well for the Muppets in the past. I am not sure what makes the formula magical, but the Muppets and classic literature work well together. It could be the Muppets’ history of clever parody and the strong story of each work combine to make the characters shine. Disney also brought in veteran Muppet writer/director/producer Kirk Thatcher (It’s a Very, Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa) to direct. Having worked with the Muppets since 1989 and under Jim Henson’s direction, Thatcher understands Henson’s vision and knows what works well for the Muppets. While the Muppets do not score a home run with it, Muppets’ Wizard of Oz is an “okay” movie. It had a lot of fun parts, but the missed opportunities are more memorable than the overall movie. Miss Piggy’s characters manage to save a movie that is otherwise uneven and lackluster. I give this one 3 out of 5 rubber chickens! The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005)Jessica's rating3.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses Lost in Translation 128 - Surpassing the Original - Muse Hack April 4, 2015 […] songs, remains the version that later remakes use, including The Wiz with Janet Jackson and Muppets Wizard of Oz. The audience sees the Judy Garland movie as being the core work; the story from the 1939 work is […] Log in to Reply Lost in Translation 128 – Surpassing the Original | Seventh Sanctum Codex July 25, 2015 […] songs, remains the version that later remakes use, including The Wiz with Janet Jackson and Muppets Wizard of Oz. The audience sees the Judy Garland movie as being the core work; the story from the 1939 work is […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.