Friday, December 18, 2009

Video Review: Return To Oz(Disney)

During the 80s, Disney decided to do their own followup to the original 1939 Wizard Of Oz movie, but unlike Filmation's Journey Back To Oz, this one was live-action(although it had was some killer claymation). No relation to the Rankin/Bass animated TV special of the same name, Return To Oz was done in conjuction with MGM and weirdly enough George Lucus. The movie acts as a sequal to the 30s movie, as well as a combo of Land Of Oz and Ozma Of Oz.

Taking place about 6 months after the cyclone hit, Dorothy's constant going on about Oz has her aunt and uncle worried that she's crazy, so they send her to a clinic to get lobotomized by a 19th Century pinball machine. She gets sprung by a mysterious blonde girl, and falls into the river during the middle of a rainstorm, and is swept back to Oz in a crate. Once there, she is suprised to see her hen Billina from back on the farm with her. They find Dorothy's old house near the ruins of the Yellow Brick Road, which is a little strange since the house didn't really go to Oz in the first movie as it was all a dream. She heads for what's left of the Emerald City where everyone has been turned to stone. Dorothy is then chased by some of the monsterous Wheelers(who're supposed to be in Ev!), and finds the robotic Tik-Tok in a closet. She winds him up, and he helps fend off the Wheelers. They then go to confront "Princess" Mombi, who here is more like the character of Princess Langwidere from Ozma Of Oz, where as Mombi from the books was your stereotypical wicked witch character. Princess Mombi kidnaps Dorothy so she can use her as one of her spare detachable heads, while Tik-Tok is unable to help her as he's wound down. While locked in a tower, Dorothy befriends Jack Pumpkinhead, a living wooden man with a pumpkin for a head. After winding up Tik-Tok again, they use the special Powder of Life to bring a flying creature with the head of a moose-like Gump to life and fly away. Dorothy and Co. end up on the mountain of the Nome King who they learned is responsible for totally screwing over Oz. The Nome King offers them the chance to save the Scarecrow who he's keeping as an ornament, but only at the cost of them turning into ornaments themselves. He also reveals that he managed to take over Oz thanks to the power of Dorothy's ruby slippers that fell into his desert when she went back to Kansas. After only Dorothy is left to go choose, she manages to free Scarecrow and the others, but the Nome King is a sore loser and threatens to devour all of them. Fortunately, Billina manages to lay an egg in his mouth, and eggs are poison to nomes. The Nome King kicks the bucket, and the Emerald City returns to its green glory. Dorothy is asked to become the new Queen of Oz, but says she wants to go home instead. However, Dorothy releases Princess Ozma(the true heir to the throne)from Mombi's magic mirror, who it turns out was the girl who freed her from the asylum, and uses the ruby slippers to send her back to Kansas.

The movie was a drastic turn from the cheery musical that had until then become an American standard, and drew it more into the darker tone that the original L. Frank Baum novels had. Another aspect of the books taken into the movie was the character designs and the look of Oz itself. The movie's scarier motif actually frightened alot of kids and parents from seeing it in theatres, which subsequently turned this into more of a cult film. If you were expecting this to be something you could sit your toddlers down to watch without them peeing in their pants, you might wanna wait until they're a little older. Aside from that, the film is an almost perfect homage to Baum's legacy. Most notedly are the performances by Fairuza Balk as Dorothy who is the closest to being like the fictional character as possible, while at the same time is modeled after Judy Garland, although more closer the Dorothy's actual age. The other good performance is by Jean Marsh as Mombi, who reprised her character of an evil witch in the film Willow. I greatly admired the effort put into this, and truly believe it is a worthy continuation of the classic movie. Hopefully future Oz-related movie productions will make the same attempt to capture the magic of the original books.

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