Return to Oz
Reviewed by Diane Squires
Rating: 8 Beans
oes everyone remember that beloved classic "The Wizard of Oz"? Y'know the one with the pretty technicolor sets, the perky songs, the lovable characters and the upbeat and wistful plot. Well, the folks at Disney obviously did. Back when the Disney name meant "whatever you do, don't see this movie", the folks over there decided to revive their sagging reputation by filming a sequel to MGM's all time classic. Unfortunately, either someone's memory was pretty faulty, or there was one hell of a typo in the script because "Return to Oz" is dark, depressing, downbeat, dull and if there was music, it wasn't anything you could sing along with.
Fairuza Balk plays Dorothy, a disturbed little girl who can't sleep at night and has strange delusions about a place called Oz. Fairuza does a very nice job of looking like she hasn't slept in a very long time. She doesn't smile at all either, which is a nice touch. Anyways, being the kind and loving guardians they are, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry decide to ship Dorothy off to the loony bin, where she will undergo electric shock therapy until she is feeling more perky. Fun, huh? Just the kind of lighthearted fare you'd expect in a beloved children's classic.
Dorothy escapes from the Maison de Loons with the help of some equally sleepless and miserable looking blond girl, who then disappears in the river. We are left to assume that she has drowned. Nice. Makes me feel all warm inside. Dorothy is swept along to Oz along with a talking chicken, who I can only assume is supposed to be likable. The two of them arrive in technicolor fairyland... dull, dark, ruined, yellow brick road demolished (perhaps so they can build a new mall over it) technicolor fairyland. Hooray. What joy. Did I mention that the booby hatch was technicolor too? Well, it was and it was a damn sight prettier looking than Oz was.
I don't want to spend hours typing out the whole plot of this sorry film, but I must make some mention of the cheerful inhabitants of Oz. Firstly, we have the Wheelers, who look sort of like Dark Crystal escapees on acid. They are creepy and ugly, but at least we get to see one or two of them die horribly in the poison desert. Instead of Glinda, we get Mombi the evil witch who has a whole bunch of heads in cabinets, all of whom look very perturbed about being decapitated and locked in cabinets. The good guys are not much better, Jack is a pumpkinheaded moron, who looks like one of halloween's greatest blunders. The Gump is a mounted, severed moose head that is tied to a sofa and animated with magic powder. We like the Gump, which is why it's so disturbing when the sofa part of him gets eaten by a giant claymation Nicol Williams. The gnome king is played by Nicol williams (Merlin from Excalibur), Nicol Williams is played by a glob of crappy clay.
As a side note, all your favorites from The wizard of Oz show up for a whopping thirty seconds at the end of the film. You'll be grateful for that, trust me. They all look really bad... and scary... very scary. Oh and there's also some robot guy named Tik Tok, who's sort of the discount combo platter version of a copper kettle and that robot from Lost in Space. "Danger, Dorothy Gale, Danger!"
By the end of the movie, Dorothy has triumphed, although she still doesn't look all that happy about it. Maybe she's still tired from having delusions and not being able to sleep? Anyways, waterlogged blondie turns out to be Queen of Oz for no apparent reason and Dorothy goes home to Kansas amidst much rejoicing... Where she immediately begins seeing strange visions in her mirror...
I am still waiting for Disney to follow this movie up with "Oz III: Dorothy Interrupted". Until they do, I would suggest that only the most rabid Fairuza Balk fans or people who feel that there's too much sunshine in their lives rent "Return to Oz". If you're perfectly happy, but you'd rather be scarred for life and see the world only a dark void of misery that will consume your soul, destroy your hopes and tear your heart into bleeding shreds, this is your flick. Enjoy.
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