March 31st, 2006
|Return to Oz|
Return to Oz was a great and unintentionally horrific movie. There is no way that it would be appropriate for kids in today's standards. Return to OZ is unmistakably darker, grittier and perhaps even more surreal than the original Judy Garland movie. I mean hell, for 90% of the movie, the Emerald City is laying in shattered ruins with its inhabitants effectively dead!
Dorothy (Fairuza Balk in her earliest big-screen role) is having trouble sleeping, back in October 1899. It's six months past the events of the first movie, and she keeps talking about Oz. Her Aunt and Uncle have been taking care of her but are at their wits' end. I'm pretty sure she got younger too.
While talking to Billina the chicken, Dorothy finds a key marked "OZ" but of course her Aunt doesn't believe her. The aunt takes her into town for "treatment" - what kind, per se? Well the kind that's illegal now!
Dorothy explains the origin of the Tin Woodsman to the doctor: "The Tin Woodsman used to be made of flesh, like everybody else. But then he cut off his leg. He had a tin leg made. But then a witch enchanted his axe. And he kept on cutting off all the other parts of his body, until he was all made of tin, even his head was..."
Clearly she sounds insane, describing the fantastical events of the Wizard of Oz movie. The "good doctor" says in a kindly tone that he thinks he knows just the thing Dorothy needs....electro-freaking-shock therapy! Bazzzt!
While the Doctor Shocker drones on about dreams and illusions, Dorothy sees a little blonde girl in a mirror. She's clearly having an acid trip. The decision is made to leave her at the clinic overnight, so her Aunt, who really is genuinely concerned for Dorothy, splits. Dorothy is placed into a white-walled and dusty room. The little blonde girl appears again, quietly and freakily, and gives Dorothy a carved pumpkin. Oh it smells like Oz in here...thunder booms far off in the clinic someone begins wailing. Even so early in the film, the cinematography is fantastic. The shots look like paintings. Wonderful.
Finally they come to get her, and strap her down. Poor Dorothy. Poor little Fairuza Balk.
They're just about to zap the living bejeezus out of her, but then BAM! Lightning strikes and the power goes out! Dorothy is saved, for now. Left strapped down in a dark examination room.
Fairuza Balk has also done the voice of Connie DiMico, the head cheerleader at Meg's school in Family Guy. She was also in GTA:VC. Oh yeah, she was Adam Sandler's chick in Waterboy. She also has a nude scene in American History X.
So spooky blonde girl unstraps Dorothy and they run away. The screaming they hear is "patients who've been damaged - they've been locked in the cellar!" Anything that calls a basement a cellar is too scary for me! *hides* Chased into the woods by the Head Nurse, the pair flee and fall down muddy slopes into a raging river and...freedom? Blondie disappears, but Dorothy makes it into a floating crate. Time and distance pass in a blur.
By morning, Dorothy's in Oz.
Billina, the chicken, now chats with Dorothy as they try to figure out their predicament. They're in a desert, the Deadly Desert, but far off they see trees and green grasses. Dorothy has to play the childhood game of "the floor is lava" to get over to the grass, but she makes it! Oh by the way, the stones are watching her.
Ah Oz, where lunchpails grow on trees! Gotta love the Lunchpail Tree.
The stones are talking. They're also infinitely afraid of chickens.
Dorothy finds the old house, now much overgrown and broken down. I love the awareness of the previous movie. Not at all like Transporter 2. The Yellow Brick Road is all heaved up and overgrown. Dorothy is distraught and runs off as fast as she can.
Return to Oz is definitely darker and more gothic than the first movie. The Emerald City itself has been reduced to ruins. All the people are stone! You can even see statues of Toto and the Cowardly Lion and other heroes from the first movie.
Now here's the part that has always stuck in my head and triggered my desire to watch this movie over.
BEWARE THE WHEELERS!
odd creaking sounds fill the air. spindly shapes, disappear behind columns.
Even the Tin Woodsman and the Lion have gotten stoned.
but the creaking? It's THE WHEELERS! The freaking wheelers, dude! Those guys are so freaky. They're like the long stilt-legged bunny things from the Dark Crystal. But evil. And on wheels. They make a freaky cackling crow-caw barking sound when excited, but can talk in a loud and high shriek.
They quickly trap Dorothy in a dead-end. Is this the end? Yes! They ruthlessly smash her to bits and eat the chicken! The End.
But no, not really. The key she carries fits into a hole in the wall. She escapes this round! But the head Wheeler screams at her that the Nome King (not Gnome King, Nome) doesn't allow chickens anywhere in Oz! Oh noes! Billina is a chicken!
In this secret room, she finds Tik-Tok (not Tick-Tock). Rusty and run down, he bears the badge "Semper Honore" - always honor - the Royal Army of Oz!
Dear Dorothy winds up his various keys. They chat. Tik-Tok is great! Anyway it turns out that he wasn't turned to stone because he isn't alive, and never will be (thank goodness!). So I guess that's why they had to say that the Tin Man used to be a real man, earlier. They formulate a plan to escape the Wheelers. Tik-Tok tromps out in the open and, when confronted, spins like mad and generally kicks the crap out of the wheelers. By interrogating the lead Wheeler, they learn quite a bit of useful information.
They wander out to Princess Mombi and her big freaky tower. Princess Mombi is in a huge hall of mirrors and gold. The opulence is bewildering. Princess Mombi sits at the end of the hall.
Remember this madness? Here in the Hall of Heads. Yes indeed, Mombi has replaceable and interchangeable heads. Pj sje [;ams pm jarvestomg....sorry, fingers on the wrong home keys. Oh, she plans on harvesting Dorothy's head after she's ripened in the tower for a few years. Oh snap! Tick-Tock rushes to her aide but his motion clockwork runs down! Good job Dorothy.
Despite all the mirrors, I never see a reflected cameraman or crew member. Good job.
The witch locks Dorothy in the tower! Oh noes! Man, do you remember when Disney didn't chow wang?
Such a friendly character, Dorothy finds. He's looking for his mom. Jack Pumpkinhead. He's really just a boy. Dorothy helps rebuild him - he's mostly made of sticks and cloth, with a big huge pumpkinhead. Gotta love Jack Pumpkinhead! He was brought to life by Mombi to test her "Powder of Life." And now Jack calls Dorothy "mom"
Dorothy sneaks in to steal Mombi's Powder of Life.
Want to know how a headless person snores? It's very moist. Dorothy steals the key and sneaks down to the head room. The original head is there, sleeping. She wakes up as Dorothy reaches for the Powder of Life. The head screams, "Dooorothy Gaaaaaale!" and tries to bite her! The headless body leaps out of bed and starts to chase Dorothy, all the time making choking gurgling sounds!!
She runs down the hall, past the screaming heads, and suddenly is shown the right way to go by the Obi-Wan like spirit of Ozma! Now that is just plain weird. Ozma exists, see,trapped in the mirrors. Walking between them. I'm pretty sure that means J K Rowling ripped off that idea from this movie.
Dorothy escapes to the tower room. They hurriedly finish the flying sled and say the magic words, "Weaugh, Teaugh, Peaugh!" and the sled comes to life!
Weaugh, Teaugh, Peaugh!
Weaugh, Teaugh, Peaugh!
Weaugh, Teaugh, Peaugh!
Weaugh, Teaugh, Peaugh!
They burst out of the tower just in time....Ohhhhh yeah. Suckit, Mombi!
It turns out the Wheelers are under control of Mombi, not unlike the flying monkeys under the control of the Wicked Witch. So they're off in pursuit of the flying Gump-headed sled.
The Wheelers, hot in pursuit, roll straight on into the Desert of Death and half a dozen of them turn into sand. Good job, idiots.
Deadly Desert: 6
Don't worry. Jack's fine.
Deadly Desert: 6
They land, by and by, past the Deadly Desert. They're on the Nome King's mountain! The rock spirits spy on them, and the Nome King is scared. But they don't see the chicken - she is hiding in Jack's head, don't worry, kids. So the Nome King mocks Dorothy and then causes her to fall into the mountain. It's pretty freaking trippy.
Basically the guy's pissed off because of all the emeralds from Emerald City were "stolen from him" so he took them back, turned everyone to stone, and then kidnapped the Scarecrow, who was King of the Emerald City, and turned him into an ornament.
So poor Fairuza Balk sits around and cries.
This makes the Nome King saaaaaaaaad. He decides to try and cheer her up.
They play a game. Each of Dorothy's friends and her get 3 chances (each) to find the ornament that the Scarecrow has been turned into. Otherwise, they're screwed!
Now this is pretty friggin' cool. The doorway opens as dozens of stone hands pull it open, like some rock goatse.
Anyway, the Gump (the moose-like head thing) goes in and screws up. Then Jack goes in and he's done for too. With each transformation, the Nome King grows more humanlike. Weird.
Meanwhile Princess Mombi is racing to the mountain through an underground tunnel in a carriage drawn by Wheelers.
Turns out that crazy Nome King is wearing the Ruby Slippers, and their additional power made it possible for him to conquer the Emerald City! GREAT JOB, DOROTHY. I'd rack up a few thousand kills for you but, well, they're not really dead.
So now it's Dorothy Gale's turn to hope in the old ornament room.
Tick-Tock's constant ticking really makes everything tense. It's like the background music is the Jeopardy song.
While Dorothy's choosing, Mombi finally shows up to warn the Nome King about the chicken! Dorothy screws up her first two guesses. Good job.
Dorothy walks around with her eyes closed. Of course she picks the right object, which was a giant emerald and revives the Scarecrow!
So they just go around and find green ornaments and start reviving people. Each time one gets revived, the Nome King returns more and more stone like.
So the giant freaky stone king turns even gianter and chases them around his palace. The stone nomes attack them too. It's pretty freaky, and would most likely absolutely terrorize a child.
The Nome King catches and almost eats Jack Pumpkinhead, but he hears Billina clucking inside his head. She was so scared that she laid an egg, which falls out of his head and into the Nome King's throat! All the little Nomes start crying poison, poison, poiiiiison!!
I can't believe it. This whole movie was a commercial from the American Egg Council. To defeat evil, eat your eggs, kids!
Deadly Desert: 6
Billina: 1 (Nome King)
Nome King: 1 (Billina's baby!)
The Nome King collapses and shrivels in an incredibly cool but freaky way! Dorothy rushes up to retrieve the Ruby Slippers and the group gathers together. She puts on the slippers and wishes them all back to the safety of Oz. Her wish brings everyone back to life!
Princess Mombi is paraded through town as a prisoner and the heroes of Oz walk though as, well, heroes. But what's this all about? The Wheelers are there, part of the audience? WTH? I can only assume that after Dorothy left, the Wheelers were rounded up, put into internment camps, and extinguished in a mass genocide. The Wheelercaust or something.
Everyone wants Dorothy to be the Queen of Oz, but she's got to go back! Why? I don't know! Anyway, she helps Ozma step through the glass that she had been trapped in - the young girl who helped her back in the clinic before she got to Oz. So Ozma becomes the Queen of Oz, but grants Dorothy the ability to come back later, so it's really just "goodbye for now"
Dorothy flies back through the skies and wakes up muddy and dazed on the bank of the river, where she's found by Toto and her family.
Turns out the clinic got struck by lightning, and burned to the ground. Everyone was rescued except the Doctor, who tried to rescue his electro-shock therapy machines but got trapped and burned to death in the place. Which is fitting, because the same actor played both the Doctor and the Nome King. Additionally, the actress that played the Head Nurse is the same woman who played Mombi's original head, and back in Kansas, she's getting carted off in a prison carriage too. Ooooh.
Deadly Desert: 6 Wheelers
Billina: 1 (Nome King)
Nome King: 1 (Billina's Egg)
Lightning: 1 (Doctor Zapper)
So she's back in Kansas and everything's happy, except for those 9 things that died. It's strangely bittersweet and heavy; a little unsettling but fantastical. Weird.
Potentially, the pumpkin the girl gave her in the clinic became Jack Pumpkinhead. The electroshock machine became Tick-Tock. The chicken was...the chicken. The Wheelers could have been the squeaky bed she was rolled around on when they took her to the examination room. The Nome King and Mombi are of course the doctor and head nurse. Anyway, there's the potential for Dorothy being genuinely insane there, which is a pretty damn freaky extrapolation of "and you were there, and you, and you!" that Dorothy did in the first movie.