“Dorothy and the Witches of Oz” – Review

Director & Writer: Leigh Scott; inspired by the book series by L. Frank Baum
Cast: Paulie Rojas as Dorothy Gale, Billy Boyd as Nick, Eliza Swenson as Billie, Christopher Lloyd as The Wizard, Lance Henriksen as Uncle Henry, Sean Astin as Frack, Ethan Embry as Frick
Rating: PG
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes
IMDB Page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592287/

Plot: Children’s author Dorothy Gale discovers that her books are based on her own repressed childhood experiences, which are starting to impact her daily life in New York City.

Note: There will be a Q&A with producer Nick Everhart (a UMKC graduate), actress-composer-producer Eliza Swenson, & actors Paulie Rojas (Dorothy) and Noel Thurman (Glinda) at the AMC Studio 30 in Olathe at 8pm on February 24th, and another at AMC Town Center in Leawood at 4:45pm on February 25th.

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Imagine making up a modern-day Wizard of Oz story and shooting it in the backyard with your friends.  Now imagine someone gave you a special-effects budget and the services of several experienced character actors.  You’d probably end up with something like Dorothy and the Witches of Oz, which combines the “gee, let’s put on a show!” ethos of low-budget filmmaking with the ambition of something much bigger.

It almost works.  Edited from its original mini-series length, it’s a jumble of interesting ideas that always seem half developed, as the characters rush frantically from one plot development to the next.  The fantasy elements are equal parts cheesy and charming, ranging from a kick-ass Tin Man to a witches’ battle that could have come out of an ’80s rock video.

Scott has a great imagination and enough visual sense to get past the occasional bad CG or tone deaf performance.  The veteran actors who play supporting roles class up the place considerably, although they clash with some of their community-theatre level co-stars.

Dorothy and the Witches of Oz works as a reasonably family-friendly diversion (it’s got some scares and adult language), and it adds another layer to the legendary Oz mythology.  More than anything, though, it offers a glimpse of what its makers could accomplish if they ever get a real Hollywood budget.  I look forward to finding out.

This might remind you of: The TV series Once Upon a Time, which has the same combination of imagination, likability and staggering goofiness.

Watch Alice in Wonderland instead: Tim Burton’s 2010 quasi-sequel to the Lewis Carroll story shows how a truly twisted and creative mind can revise a classic.

- Loey Lockerby

 

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