Sunday, January 21, 2007

Movie Review: Return To Oz 4 Stars

Freaky. Frightening. Freudian.

Somehow this outstanding “sequel” to The Wizard Of Oz never became the classic it deserved to become. Conspiracy theorists suggest that a vast web of Judy Garland fans schemed to bury Return to Oz for fear that not only would it undoubtedly be compared to the 1939 classic, but it might, in fact, be preferred by younger fans.

Maybe. Maybe not.

It is incredible, though. With animatronic puppetry from the Jim Henson Creature Shop and Academy Award-nominated visual effects, Return To Oz is a heart-pounding, whiteknuckle thrill ride back to the Emerald City with Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) and her newfound friends, Tik Tok (Sean Barrett, Tim Rose), Jack Pumpkinhead (Stewart Larange, Brian Henson) and the Gump (Steve Norrington).

In this scary fantasy, Auntie Em has committed Dorothy to a sanitarium where creepy psychoanalyst Dr. Worley (Nicol Williamson) and his evil assistant Nurse Wilson (Jean Marsh) plan to use electroshock to rid Dorothy of all her silly thoughts about Oz. Dorothy escapes and, in a torrential downpour, drifts back to Oz where she discovers the Nome King (also Nicol Williamson) has conquered the Emerald City and turned all of its inhabitants, including The Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, to stone. He and his gnomes rule from his mountain home in the Deadly Desert leaving Princess Mombi (Jean Marsh, again) and her Wheelers--sort of like simian skate punks with wheels for hands and feet--to control the Emerald City.

This may be one of my favorite kid’s films. But be forewarned, it may be a little too terrifying for sensitive youngsters.

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