Making the Grades
It appears the Muppets may be tackling too much. In an obvious attempt to appeal to a wider audience, their latest adventure is so packed with diversions and distractions that it veers dangerously off course.
Like Muppet Treasure Island, this new made-for-television movie is based on a literary classic. Retelling L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz, the script introduces pop singer Ashanti as the despondent Dorothy who is stuck waiting tables in her aunt (Queen Latifah) and uncle's (David Alan Grier) diner. Meanwhile, her real dream is to break out of the deadbeat Kansas town she lives in and make it big in the music world.
Just to prove she has what it takes to be a diva, the singer's abilities are showcased in the film's music video-like opening. There the gingham-wearing songster belts out the woe-is-me blues before being blown to Oz in a mid-West tornado.
Landing in the magical land, Dorothy's most pressing problem is the fact her now muppetized pet prawn, Toto, is naked. After outfitting the shady, smooth-talking little critter, she gets on with the bigger concerns of investigating her new surroundings. Luckily she encounters a friendly pack of rat Munchkins and the Good Witch (Miss Piggy) who celebrates the demise of one of her wicked sisters (Miss Piggy again) and sends Dorothy on a journey to meet the Wizard (Jeffrey Tambor).
Given a pair of silver shoes (that make her feel confident and sexy), Dorothy starts down the Yellow Brick Road where she rescues Kermit the Scarecrow, Gonzo the Tin Man and Fozzie the Cowardly Lion. But while attempting to reboot the Tin Man, Toto inadvertently touches two rivets, which turn out to be the robot's nipples. That incident, along with CGI cleavage and sexual innuendo, brings a whole new level of adult-oriented subject matter to the script.
Along the way, the traveling companions also make a stop at Poppyfield's, a nightclub where the red flower centerpieces have a sleep-inducing effect on the patrons. Unfortunately, Dorothy is rescued from a sluggish stupor only to be subjected to the evil whims of the Biker Witch who plans to cut off the enchanted silver shoes with a high-speed saw blade.
While the film contains the slapstick violence of the original, the content level is heightened by a confusing cameo appearance in which Director Quentin Tarantino tries to convince Kermit the Frog to finish off Dorothy in a kind of Kill Bill slash and stab finale. While Kermit stands strong on his own ending, it appears his view of family friendly fare wavered long before the movie's conclusion. Given the spontaneity, charm and appeal of the original Muppet characters, when will moviemakers realize a film doesn't have to be edgy to be entertaining?
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.
Why does Dorothy think she will only find happiness outside of Kansas? Why do far off locations often seem more appealing than what we are familiar with?
What does the Wizard help Dorothy and her friends discover about their inner strengths and abilities?