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The Muppets' Wizard of Oz DVD

Boo, get off the stage!
Greg James (August 1, 2005) -
I found myself enchanted by "The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz". As a film it could have been better, but this was far from the bomb many (including I) feared it could be. Since the project was created as a made-for-TV movie I was not expecting cinematic gold. The film may not be a timeless classic or the highlight of the Muppet’s film catalog, but for a 2005 Muppet TV movie, it was extremely entertaining and a lot of fun to watch.

Order The Muppets' Wizard of Oz DVD. The disc includes twenty minutes of added scenes, bloopers, a behind-the-scenes featurette and more.

Some famous movie reviewer once said that a reviewer should review comedies with their back to the screen, and just watch whether or not people are laughing. If they are laughing the movie works, if they aren’t then it doesn’t. Based on that criteria I would have to say “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz” was a big success, because every time I watch the film with a group of people they laugh at all the great gags, jokes, character interactions, and general Muppet wackiness. The film was given some care in terms of its DVD release; however the overall presentation and treatment still falls short of many people anticipated.

The biggest complaint it that there is not a widescreen presentation of the film. The movie was shot in widescreen, yet Disney decided to only include a cropped full-frame picture here. However oddly enough, the disc menus are widescreen and the trailer for the DVD was widescreen too.

That's not to say that there isn’t a nice sampling of extras though. There are some little things like trailers for other projects and DVDs. There is a “Backstage Disney: Pepe’s Exclusive Making Of” featurette - this behind the scenes look runs just over 7 minutes, and give a fun look at the making of the movie. Pepe (the King Prawn) leads the viewer on a fast paced tour of the set, partaking in fun little interviews with the Muppet characters, human guest stars, and director Kirk Thatcher. This feature is fun, but really is just fun fluff – it does not really give viewers any meaty behind the scenes substance.

It would have been nice to hear how the idea of doing “Oz” came about, how the Muppets were cast in the different roles, see some early concept designs for the characters, talk about the puppeteering and performing of the characters playing other characters, how the special effects were done, interview a Muppeteer or two, and show us some real behind the scenes footage. This is entertaining and it shows the fun atmosphere the Muppets bring with them, but does not really show viewers much about the real making of the film.

The next bonus feature is a blooper reel called “Oz Oops”- the bloopers run almost 5 minutes and are of course hysterical because the Muppeteers always stay in character allowing for some wonderful candid moments. This is a true highlight of the bonus features. I could watch Muppet flubs for hours.

The last bonus feature is an “Extended Interview with Quentin Tarantino” – which runs over 6 minutes in length. This interview between Pepe and Quentin is extremely entertaining. Bill Barretta shows his great improvisational skills as he jests and jokes with the famed director. Quentin is a huge Muppet fan and the interview really allows him to “geek out” with the Prawn. The two spend some time trying to cast the Muppets in some of Quentin’s famous films, and talking about Quentin’s overall experience filming his cameo in the film. Overall this is a fun little feature that was entertaining (but not all the fulfilling – I left still craving more actual information and substance in the bonus features).

The bonus features are quite funny and make the DVD somewhat well rounded and balanced (considering it was a made for TV movie, I’m surprised Disney made anything just for it). However some more insightful and “grown-up” features would be nice, these just seems a little watered down, especially when compared to past Muppet DVD releases (most notably “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island”). But ultimately the real star of any DVD is the film itself, and in this DVD the film is a bonus feature in itself.

When the film was first edited, ABC cut a lot of footage in order for the special to fit 2-hour television block (allowing time for commercials). The extra 20 minutes added to the film actually help it out a lot. Most of what was cut were cute little one-liner jokes, but they really help make the movie feel all that more Muppet-ish. Plus many scenes that were added helped with the pacing and flow of the film.

Some of the reintroduced scenes include: a longer extended cut of Dorothy's opening song “Kansas”; a bit more comedy when Dorothy arrives to give her demo CD to the Muppet Star Hunt; her conversation in Munchkinland is longer (involving more dialog, jokes, and a glimpse at “Oz for Dummies”); there's a more to Pepe's cell-phone/agent gag; there is a harmless Passion of the Christ gag when Dorothy meets the Scarecrow; the Tin Thing explains the difference between men and women; Kelly Osborne does a small cameo in the Emerald City; the Wicked Witch's song is longer and uncut (including speaking lines from each member of the Electric Mayhem); Pepe does some more flirting with Dorothy when they are on in the captured in the witch’s castle; Angel Marie makes a disturbing (yet hilarious) comment after the enchanted biker cap wears off; the Quentin Tarantino's cut away is extended with an Anime pitch; and there is much more that fill out the film.

Despite being only in full-screen, the film presented on the DVD seems to work better on DVD - without commercial interruptions and with the clarity that the format allows the movie which often makes great use of color and cinematography. When I first saw the film on ABC I thought the timing and pacing of the film was off, but now being able to see it on DVD without interruptions (and with the extra scenes inserted) I think that the pacing is much better. The film seems to flow a lot more naturally, and there is a lot more Muppet wackiness that originally was missing. In fact, with the new scenes inserted in, “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz” becomes one of the longest running Muppet movies to date.

Every time there is something new released dealing with the Muppets I'm always excited to be there, watch it, and celebrate it. That said, I don't think "The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz" is the one star film many people are touting it as. However, Ashanti's acting abilities with the Muppets can be painfully bad at times, and the pacing is not Oscar worthy. However, there are many Muppety touches which I just loved to death. This film is entertaining, fun to watch, hilarious, and a great Muppet fun; and I would have to say that this is one of the best TV movies I’ve seen in a long time. I find myself quoting the film throughout the day. Most of the jokes still make me laugh, plus I can’t get half these songs out of my head.

The DVD comes with a 5 dollar rebate if you buy The Muppet Show Season 1 which is a nice little deal, being that the disc is pretty cheap to begin with (however this does expire if you don’t act soon).

Discover what you may be missing!
Learn the differences between widescreen and pan-and-scan DVDs.

 
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