Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Weirdos of Oz

J. and H. leant us The Muppets Wizard of Oz, which we'd been sort of avoiding seeing. Had been pretty unimpressed with most recent Muppet efforts for being too twee and safe, and for focusing too much on the guest stars and not enough on the funny stuff.

So am glad to report this is really quite good - though it's got its share of twee moments.

Ashanti is Dorothy and wants to be a singer. But Auntie Em (Queen Latifah) thinks she should stay at work in the family diner in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas. Ashanti misses an audition with Kermit and Miss Piggy who are - er - on a talent-spotting tour through the area. But she hands over an audition tape they seem unlikely to hear.

So far so zzzz. And then there's a storm and Ashanti wakes up to find her prawn is now played by Pepe. And he's nekkid and unashamed. Suddenly things start to brighten up.

Soon they're on an adventure. The songs are a bit rubbish and schmaltzy, especially when compared to the Judy Garland film, and there's too much effort to explain what we're learning as we make our way.

Yet Kermit is fun as the Scarecrow, and Pepe tweaks Gonzo the Tin Man's nipples. There's also something Very Odd about Gonzo's physical love for a particularly good looking chicken.

The Muppets is always at its best when doing stuff no other kids' show could. Such as having everyone getting stoned in a poppy-smoking nightclub to tunes by the Electric Mayhem. Or having a fight scene choreographed by Quentin Tarantino. Or seeing two of the heroes torn limb from limb. Or disintegrating Beaker's head.

It's also interesting that Dorothy's black, considering L Frank Baum's supposed white supermacist thinkings. (Though be careful what you google for: there's a lot of angry people on both sides of the debate.) Whatever the case, it's a fun thing to do with the adaptation.

The confrontation with the wizard involves some really ropey CGI. That's possibly part of the point, but I couldn't help thinking that this must have had a bigger budget than anything the Mill gets on Droo. It's also the same lame gag stretched out for too long, that nobody gets what they wish for. It felt a lot like an advert for the non-physical effects that were so singly unimpressive.

It's not Muppet's Christmas Carol, but it's better than most of the others.


Anonymous said...

I refuse to watch any Muppet film these days aside from Christmas Carol - a true masterstroke and all time Classic - I did catch the beginning of Muppet's Treasure Island once and that was enough to make me avoid the rest of it and anything since... And as much as the idea of Muppet's Wizard of Oz appeals your comments reaffirm my fears that I would only regret putting that shiny disc into my machine...

Buzz Stephens said...

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