It has the feel of moderately budgeted television, but the PG-rated "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz" will probably work okay for fans of series such as "Charmed" — or families who are a little obsessed with L. Frank Baum's classic tale.
It may not work as well for those who don't want their memories of the 1939 classic starring Judy Garland sullied.
A longer miniseries version of "The Witches of Oz," now playing on Starz, ran overseas last year. New footage and extra special effects have been added to the in-theater version.
The movie finds Dorothy (Paulie Rojas) all grown up and making a splash in New York City as a children's book author. Dorothy doesn't realize her stories are based on repressed memories.
But when the Wicked Witch of the West (Eliza Swenson, who is also the soundtrack composer) shows up in Manhattan, along with Glinda the Good Witch (Noel Thurman), Dorothy will have to do battle again.
Not everybody in Dorothy's NYC world is who they seem. Pay attention as you watch Dorothy interact with her lawyer, Bryan (Barry Ratcliffe); her illustrator, Allen (Ari Zagaris); a handsome stranger with a Scottish accent, Nick (Billy Boyd from "Lord of the Rings"); and Dorothy's snooty literary agent, Billie.
While the movie has fun contemporizing the tale by plopping it down in present-day New York, it takes liberties in doing so. Seeing Dorothy heavily made up like a cover girl, wearing chic fashions, you might think the character has lost something in the translation.
No explanation is given for how the Wicked Witch returned to life after being doused and melted by Dorothy in the original story. And Dot gets a whole new backstory, redefining her relationship with Uncle Henry (Lance Henriksen).
The plot centers on a magical book (it made me think of "Wicked") that will make the Wicked Witch all powerful, but she lacks the key to it. Dorothy, of course, has the hidden key.
I'm guessing director-screenwriter Leigh Scott learned how to stretch a dollar as a disciple of B-movie director Roger Corman. The digital effects are second-tier, the pacing is slow (especially early on), and the acting also feels like television-series work for the most part — and not the best of that.
An exception is Christopher Lloyd ("Back to the Future") as the wily Wizard, who at one point claims to have once played Lear on the Omaha Playhouse stage. Wish I'd seen that.
Is "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz" just a little bit cheezy? I'm thinking yes, but that doesn't mean families can't enjoy it as an escapist way to spend a couple of digitally enhanced hours of flying monkeys and magical powers.
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