From “The Wizard of Oz” to “Wicked,” I’m a big fan of L. Frank Baum’s marvelous creation.
I’m not a super fan, but I have read the first couple books. I know that Dorothy’s slippers were originally silver and that the Wicked Witch of the West controlled the flying monkeys with a magic hat. And I remembered enough about the geography to find the book “Wicked” a fascinating deconstruction and mash-up of the original book and movie. I also see Disney’s “Return to Oz” as a hidden gem. And I’ll hum “Ease on Down the Road” from “The Wiz” with all the other musical theater geeks.
So I was geeked about “The Witches of Oz,” a British miniseries turned into a movie recently released by Image Entertainment. It uses elements from several books (such as the many-headed Langwidere and the Nome King) and brings them into a more modern setting. Dorothy Gale is an author of children’s books about Oz, not knowing that the books are based on her repressed memories of her time there.
A literary agent picks up her books and whisks her and her artist collaborator off to New York so she can write the final book and work on movie rights. There, she discovers the truth and that the Wicked Witch of the West is trying to find a key she took from Oz and hid. The key will open a book with a powerful magical word that will let her change reality.
Oooh. Potentially cool stuff.
But, man, is this movie bad. It’s got some real names in it: Christopher Lloyd, Lance Henricksen, Mia Sara, Sean Astin and Billy Boyd. But it seems Boyd (“Lord of the Rings”) is the only one who remembers how to act.
Boyd plays Nick, the potential love interest for Dorothy (Paulie Rojas, with way too much hair). But it doesn’t really matter because this is such a terribly muddled mess of a movie.
I would expect a TV miniseries to not have full-scale movie-quality special effects, but these are really sad — costumes and makeup, too. But, especially for a British miniseries, I would expect a strong and coherent story. Like “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” the BBC did back in the ’80s.
But, no. People randomly show up here and there. Other actions don’t make sense. Who’s working for whom isn’t clear, and not in a way that adds intrigue — just a confusing way. And the editing makes it difficult to get any sense of time.
And the agent telling Dorothy to “sex it up” doesn’t exactly match with the otherwise kid-friendly premise.
And the whole film looks like it was run through the Dingy Filter on the video editor before it was released.
As an Oz fan, I really tried to find something to enjoy about this movie, but I just couldn’t. (Well, OK, I can appreciate the attempt to use more obscure bits of Oz lore. It’s just too bad it doesn’t go anywhere.) Has anyone seen the British original? Did they just cut out the parts that made the story make sense?
The world certainly has a place for a new, family-friendly Oz epic, but this isn’t it. Not even close.