Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
When you hear the word “OZ” you’re immediately taken back to a magical time in your life. For kids of my generation, the film was a CBS television mainstay. Once a year you plopped down on the living room floor and took that trip over the rainbow. In recent years, the film has been re-released to theatres, giving fans both young and old a chance to see it on the big screen. One of my favorite movie moments EVER was when I did a theatre promotion and had several actual Munchkins in attendance. I was shocked when they told me that they had never seen the film on the big screen before. Imagine my delight as I sat in the same row with them and watched them watch themselves! It was magic. And the magic continues with a new film that explores the world of OZ and gives the tale a whole new spin!
The film opens in the Emerald City. A battle royale is about to take place between the factions of witches, good and bad. The baddies are searching for a magic key that will unlock a book and allow them to run OZ as they wish. Things seem to be going well for the bad witches. Until Dorothy Gale and her house drop in!
Dorothy Gale (Rojas) is a Kansas-born author living in New York City. Her claim to fame is a series of children’s books detailing a young girl’s adventures in the land of OZ. Together with her illustrator, Allen (Ari Zagaris) and agent, Bryan (Barry J. Ratcliffe), she is hoping to seal a movie deal for her stories. But she’s having problems with the proposed star, Ilsa (Sasha Jackson). Despite the fact that Dorothy is an eleven year old girl, Ilsa wants to play her sexed up and wearing leather pants. The deal is being brokered by Billie Westbrook (Eliza Swenson), who has much more invested in the deal then she lets on. After the death of her Uncle Henry (Lance Henriksen), Dorothy discovers that her stories are actually repressed memories…that the books she writes are about her!
It’s obvious that the filmmakers had as much fun making the film as the audience will watching it. Director/writer Scott has not only made a familiar story seem new but has paid homage to the lesser known OZ works of L. Frank Baum. Not only are the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Toto referenced but lesser known characters like Princess Langwidere (played by “Ferris Buellers” Mia Sara), Tik-Tok and Jack Pumpkinhead. The cast is strong, with Rojas very believable as a young woman who, like eleven year old Dorothy, must face her fears. Other familiar faces include Boyd, Ethan Embry and Sean Astin (they play a pair of diminutive jokers named Frick and Frack) and, of course, Christopher Lloyd, playing the wizard by way of Willy Wonka. It’s especially fun to watch the interaction between former Hobbits Boyd and Astin as they bicker about. The special effects are quite well done and mostly CGI. Even though the film is rated PG there are some scary parts that might frighten some little ones. And the score is marvelous. That it was written by actress Eliza Swenson (see above) came as a complete surprise. The film rises and falls with the score and the music sets the tone of the film brilliantly.
“Dorothy and the Witches of Oz” is currently playing in Phoenix and opens on February 24 in Kansas City and Louisville with more cities being added weekly.