“There Are Times When the Muppets Aren’t Funny.”
“Yeah, But I Always Figure that’s the Writer’s Fault.”
“Yeah, But I Always Figure that’s the Writer’s Fault.”
Discovering the Best in The Muppets at Their Worst, Part Three
Justin H. Piatt - Well, here we are again. Time to review the Muppet film that has received perhaps the most criticism of all Muppet films.
I have to admit, this was difficult for me. There is so much in this movie that I love, but so much in it that I also… very much don’t love. This article will also be much more detailed than the previous two, as I feel there is more to defend… and more to criticize. Let us consider the silver lining of the Bog of Eternal Stench that is…
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
(This could be a long one.)
1. The first thing I’ll point out is that when I first watched this movie, I liked it a lot. It wasn’t great, but it was good. Then when I watched it on DVD, I liked it even more! … But wait… I’m supposed to be listing bad points here, aren’t I? Well, this is a bad point. It’s bad because with most Muppet movies, you’re supposed to find more and more to love about the film each time you watch it. With The Muppets Wizard of Oz, I find more and more to dislike about the film each time I watch it. Sad, but true. I used to wonder why so few people enjoyed it. Now I understand, unfortunately.
2. Miss Piggy’s “Cuddles!” I feel as uncomfortable during this as Dorothy and Pepe—Er, Toto seem to.
3. Pepe. I like Pepe, but he’s kind of annoying here. Like he takes up too much of the movie. I really wish Rowlf had played Toto, and they had found another role for Pepe to play.
4. “Those are my nipples.” Cringe! I know it’s been said before, but you would have been disappointed had I not brought it up, wouldn’t you?
5. The Kalidah Critics. A great concept that was poorly executed. Rather than being funny, Statler and Waldorf are just plain mean here. Again, it was a great idea. A nice reference to the book, but… wow, you feel worse for Fozzie in this scene than at the worst moments of The Muppet Show’s first season.
6. Dorothy’s Don King hair. Maybe it’s just not my kind of humor. Is there actually such a thing as hair humor?
7. “What happens in Emerald City stays in Emerald City.” Not only an overused joke, but also an overused phrase, and one that disturbs me every time I hear it.
8. Dorothy is re-born! Or rather, Osbourne. I laughed at this the first time I saw it, but since… Golly, do I hate this joke! I’m also not fond of the Muppets initially teasing Dorothy for her “table cloth” of an outfit. Although, seriously Dorothy, what were you thinking with that one?
9. CGI-effects. The CG Wizard always bugs me. The effect is poorly done, and I think it could have been much more interesting to do it all live. A live woman, a chicken puppet, a ball of fire. And you’re telling me they couldn’t have hired a real dragon? … Oh. They couldn’t hire a real dragon? *ahem* Sorry. … Um, I’ll also add here that I don’t like the corny delivery the Wizard gives when he’s computer generated.
10. “The Witch is In the House.” I love the scene, (I’ll delve into that more in a bit) but much of the song sounds very awkward. The lyrics sound like they were written in a hurry, sort of last minute. I know, because I’ve written songs like that. And Miss Piggy’s performance is… well, a little awkward as well. Props to Eric Jacobson for taking the song on. As far as I’m aware, Frank Oz never performed a scene like this with Miss Piggy, so Eric really had no frame of reference here. The fact that it seems like Piggy at all is very commendable.
11. “Oh-wah-ta-foo-ly-am.” Jeez, what an awful, awful, unoriginal trick that only 3-year olds find funny. I suppose it’s kind of funny that the Flying Monkeys actually fell for it, and Crazy Harry’s “That’s comedy and magic!” line is funny, but… still… A terrible bit.
12. Angel Marie. Great in Muppet Treasure Island, just awful here. I don’t much like it that Fozzie can take Angel Marie out just by tickling him. And the “Spank me” line? Cringe!
13. Quentin Tarantino’s cameo. It was really pointless. Broke the pacing of the movie.
14. Pepe’s “going cyclone” to reveal the Wizard. I don’t think it was as funny as they intended. It’s nice that “Toto” reveals the wizard for who he is, as with the actual Wizard of Oz story, but… well, I just don’t like this part. Next!
15. Penguins are unisex? Huh? Well, maybe the joke was funny the first time you heard it, but it gets under your collar now, too, doesn’t it? Said unisex penguins are always great, though, aren’t they? Don’t worry, I’ll stop asking you questions now. … Or will I?
16. This is the first time there has ever really been an out-and-out evil character in a Muppet movie. And the character was played by Miss Piggy, no less. This was a mistake, I think. There should always be some redeemable quality to a Muppet character (or even a character in a Muppet film). Perhaps the only character to come close to being this evil was that Martin Price guy from The Muppets Take Manhattan, and I didn’t like that scene either. (No, Mel Brooks’ character in The Muppet Movie does not count. That was just silliness!)
17. The framing of most of the movie is very weird. I really don’t like it. Kirk Thatcher’s a brilliant writer, but his directorial style leaves much to be desired here. I will say, however, that his directing skills have greatly improved since this was made. Love his work on Muppets.com and the Give a Day, Get a Day commercials.
18. The movie also has some story and pacing issues. There’s some confusion about what exactly Dorothy wants. Is she going to Oz to get home or to become a star? If it’s to become a star, why does she suddenly realize she wants to go home? If it’s to go home, why is she singing on the Wizard’s show? Well, I won’t worry about it anymore. I’ll just put this out of my mind whenever I watch the movie, and just enjoy the following…
1. While I wouldn’t list this as a good point, and would have overlooked it entirely, but I wanted to defend Ashanti. Many have a problem with her in this movie. I don’t understand that. I don’t see anything wrong with her performance. I don’t love the casting decision, but it certainly wasn’t a bad one. She interacts well with the Muppets, better than some of the guests on The Muppet Show. … Anyway, I don’t want to spend a lot of time here. Just wanted to point out that I’m pro-Ashanti in this movie.
2. “The National Weather Bureau has raised the twister alert from right-foot green, to right-foot yellow.” Funny line!
3. Pepe. Sure, he’s listed as a bad thing, but his wit adds a lot to the movie for me… Yes, at the same time that he annoys me. But, who can resist a proud nudist? And one who’s so very naughty, okay. You did catch that off-color joke about the teddy bear, didn’t you? You didn’t? Well, perhaps you should watch the movie again.
4. The Dark Side of the Moon reference. For those of you who have actually experienced Dark Side of the Rainbow, I must say… isn’t it just creepy? Um, unfortunately it doesn’t really work with the Muppet version… Line’s still funny, though. As is the “’80s band” summary.
5. This film follows the original story much better than pretty much any other version of the Wizard of Oz released. And the Munchkins being played by rats was a nice touch, since it allowed Rizzo more screen time while keeping certain story elements intact. (Go read the book if you don’t know why this is so. ‘Tis good.) In addition, LOVE the Munchkin jingle! “Calling all Munchkins! Let’s do lunchkins!”
6. I like how much fun Kermit seems to have playing the Scarecrow. In fact, I think Kermit, Gonzo and Fozzie are all wonderfully cast as the Scarecrow, Tin Thing and Cowardly Lion. But then, who else would you cast? (I know, I know. Scooter as the Scarecrow. Crazy Harry as Tin Thing. Sam the Eagle as Cowardly Lion. I know, I know.) I also love the design of each character. Very well done, Muppet Workshop or Puppet Heap or whoever was making the puppets at this time. And this is really the first time since The Great Muppet Caper that the three were used as a team again. Love that.
7. HA! The value of Fozzie’s wallet is increased by the fact that it’s Velcro. *giggle*
8. Evil bunnies. Evil bunnies should be everywhere in the Muppet universe. Just wish they had popped up again later in the movie, maybe to help fight against the Wicked Witch.
9. “When I’m With You.” I like this song. Kinda catchy, sweet, fun. And, hey! The Muppets are singing again! Whoo-hoo! And I always crack up over the line “Cashmere is washable!” It’s so random, pointless, and perfect. Pepe: “I don’t have any rhymes for this, okay, so… Cashmere is washable!”
10. Poppyfields. Groovy, baby! The Electric Mayhem’s song, though lacking in the lyrics department, was fun. And the scene’s also kinda funny.
11. The secondary Muppet casting. I love Scooter, Bunsen, Beaker and Sam at Emerald City. Perhaps Sam is not the funniest here, but he is well cast. And the initial introduction of Scooter as the “Wizard” is pretty funny. And when are Bunsen and Beaker’s experiments unfunny? … Oh, right. When they involve Kelly Osbourne.
12. Frank Oz reference. Fanboy says: “Ack! Kermit just said Frank Oz’s name! Eeeeeeeee!” (Freak out; faint; die)
13. Johnny and Sal as the Wicked Witch’s main henchmen. Hilarious! And love that Johnny’s kind of in love with the Wicked Witch of the West. “No, sugar patch! How could it be?”
14. Love Fozzie’s volunteering Kermit to stop the Wicked Witch! Poor Kermit. Typical Fozzie. Love it!
15. “The Witch is in the House.” I love the scene! The song is awkward, but the scene is really amazing. I love all the Flying Monkeys, the lighting is great. The action is good. When I first saw this, it made me think, “Yes, I do want to work for the Muppets.” I should also point out that the Flying Monkeys are great throughout (most) of the film.
16. “The agony of de-feet!” Yes, Johnny. It is a great pun.
17. “Do you know what I do to pests?” “You welcome us as part of an unconventional multispecies family?” You know something? I love Rizzo. I don’t think I realized just how funny he was until I started writing this series of articles. Steve Whitmire, you are indeed a genius with that rat. “Eh, Munchkin, actually.”
18. Quentin Tarantino’s cameo. Do you have any idea how much good is also bad in this movie? Wow. Well, anyway, I really do like the scene itself. I love Kermit’s reaction to Tarantino. And his excitement over affordable entertainment reminds me of The Muppet Show days.
19. Jeffrey Tambor. (Hey! I wrote Tamboy again!) The very awkward yet pompous nerd that the Wizard turns out to be is a great character. And the revealing of the wig is pretty darn funny.
20. Piggy’s flirting with Kermit at the end. Dunno. Just like it.
21. And, finally, the ending makes ya feel good, don’t it? And, no, not just because it’s the end (Stop that, you Kalidah critics!). No, Dorothy reaches her dream, the Muppets get to sing and dance and celebrate as they do best. Okay, so the song’s not the greatest, but it’s still a nice little ending.
Well, initially I was going to make this a four-part series, and I was going to review Hey, Cinderella! Initially, because I remembered disliking it. Then I just re-watched the show and… well, now I guess I like it. Most of it. I still have problems with it, such as how the main focus of the program is entirely on the humans rather than the Muppets. In fact, you could have left the Muppets out altogether and tell basically the same story (couldn’t do that with Muppet Treasure Island, all ye nay-sayers!). However, I don’t think this is enough to base a review on… even though I just did review it.
Wow. This turned out to be a lot longer than I intended it to be. So I guess I’ll stop writing now.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier