Phillip and I watched The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz last night. It was from our Netflix queue.
I loved it.
Ashanti plays a teenage girl named Dorothy, who lives in a trailer park in Kansas with her Aunt Em (Queen Latifah) and her Uncle Henry (David Allen Grier). Dorothy wants to be a singer, and she has a chance to audition for The Muppets, but she’s stuck working in the diner owned by her aunt and uncle. Dorothy’s only friend is her pet prawn, Toto. She hates her life – singing is the only thing that gives her hope.
A tornado hits, and Dorothy and Toto find themselves in Munchkinland, in The Land of Oz. Their trailer has killed the Wicked Witch of The East. Toto is suddenly able to speak. The Good Witch of The North appears, gives Dorothy the dead witch’s magic silver shoes and suggests that if Dorothy goes to The Emerald City, The Wizard of Oz could turn her into a famous singer.
All of the witches are played by Miss Piggy. The Munchkins are played by Muppet rats. And, in Oz, Toto is played by Pepe the Prawn.
Along the way, Dorothy teams up with a scarecrow who lacks a brain (Kermit the Frog), a “tin thing” who lacks a heart (Gonzo), and a lion who lacks courage (Fozzie Bear). The Wizard (Jeffrey Tambor) promises to give them all the things they want – if they steal the magic eye from the Wicked Witch of The West.
The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz was a lot of fun. Like most Muppet movies, it was full of corny jokes, random celebrity cameos (like Quentin Tarantino and Kelly Osbourne), the whole sense of self-awareness among the actors, and random Muppet cameos. (I loved Statler and Waldorf as the demons who try to break the confidence of anyone trying to balance on the log across the ravine.)
My favorite joke was when Scarecrow asked The Wizard of Oz if he was related to Frank Oz.
As with most Muppet movies based on other stories, they play loose with the plot. I found it interesting, though, that The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz was truer to the book than to the 1939 movie.
On the down side, The Muppets were not performed by the regular people – no Frank Oz or Brian Henson. The puppetry and voices weren’t quite up to standards. As Phillip pointed out, Fozzie Bear sounded too much like Miss Piggy.
When we put The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz on our Netflix queue, I reminded Phillip that we’d seen it before – but I was willing to see it again. Phillip didn’t remember it. I told him that Ashanti was Dorothy and Toto was Pepe the Prawn. He replied that that sounded familiar.
As we watched it last night, Phillip said that nothing looked familiar. And, actually, I seemed to have forgotten parts of it. It was a mystery: How could I have seen a Muppet movie which Phillip had not?
Someone, somewhere in the movie, made a self-aware joke about being on television, and the mystery was suddenly solved. The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz was a TV movie (from 2005). Phillip either didn’t watch it with me, the first time, or lost interest toward the beginning.