Monday, January 15, 2007

Movie Review: The Wizard of Oz 5 Stars

When I saw last year’s special edition of The Wizard of Oz (restored print and remastered sound), released in the theatres for the first time in nearly 25 years, I was absolutely blown away. I must’ve seen the movie nearly 90 times on television, but to witness it in all its glory on the Big Screen – Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, no less – was breathtaking. The Wizard of Oz is at turns surreal, frightening and funny.

In 1939, The Wizard of Oz was a glorious technical achievement. Flying monkeys, talking trees, melting witches, tornadoes, Munchkins, and the glorious Technicolor world of Oz with the brilliant blue of Dorothy’s dress, the lime-green of Emerald City, and the saffron Yellow Brick Road our heroes must follow, follow, follow, follow.

By today’s computer-generated standards, however, the effects seem, well, old-school. But like Star Wars, the effects in The Wizard of Oz take a backseat to the magnificent story. This harrowing adventure pits the pure Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her goodhearted but flawed compatriots, Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Man (Jack Haley) and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) against the wonderfully nefarious Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton). Off to see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, our heroes, guided by Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke), follow the Yellow Brick Road, battling purple monkeys, sleep-inducing poppies, and their own insecurities. The Wizard is unveiled as a fraud, each character realizes that he or she already possesses the something they covet most: intelligence, courage, humanity and a sense of belonging.

Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s musical numbers are, of course, timeless classics. From the plaintive “Over the Rainbow” sung by Dorothy on her bleak black-and-white Kansas farm to “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead,” “If I Only Had A Brain” and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” the newly-remastered soundtrack is a sing-along must for all families.

Judy Garland won a special Academy Award for her performance, and AFI named The Wizard of Oz number six on their list of The Top 100 Films.

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