The beloved family classic, The Wizard of Oz, makes its return to the big screen for one week only starting Friday, September 20th, 2013. By applying 3D technology to a film produced in the late 1930s, Warner Bros. attempts to resurrect the timeless movie for a new generation. However, will its popularity perish under the stacks of newer movies? I’d argue not. As I sat in the theatre at an advance screening, waiting for the movie to begin, murmurs behind me whispered of the “thousands of times” they had seen this classic, the “old family traditions” of watching it during the holidays, as well as the: “I can’t believe I’m 50 and have never seen it!”
The premise: Kansas’ darling Dorothy Gale is beginning to feel like the close quarters of home are decreasing in size. Living on a farm with Uncle Henry, Auntie Em, Hunk, Hickory and Zeke isn’t giving her the adventure she so longs for. She daydreams about leaving with her dog, Toto. This dream starts to take form when grumpy old Miss. Gulch threatens to take little Toto (whom she claims is a “threat to society”) away. Dorothy scoops up Toto and sets off for the open road. After leaving home, she stumbles upon Professor Marvel, a gypsy of sorts who ostentatiously claims to be masterfully all-knowing, although he has only mastered the art of pretending. He pretends to see Auntie Em succumb to sickness in his crystal ball, which immediately results in Dorothy’s change of heart and sends her and Toto rushing home.
A twister is coming! As it wheels in, Auntie Em and the gang protect themselves from the blustery ferocity that is heading there way. Upon Dorothy’s return, she finds her home in shambles and the latch to the underground crawlspace locked. Finding shelter indoors, she gets hit in the head and faints, sending her into a state of oblivion.
When she wakes up, she is in the magical, colourful land of Oz. She acquaints herself with her new surrounding and is greeted by munchkins and witches, both good and bad — she really isn’t in Kansas anymore. As she sets out on her journey down the yellow brick road in hopes of finding a way back to Kansas, she picks up some friends along the way! The Scarecrow, Tin-man, Lion and Dorothy soon become kindred spirits. The only way to obtain what they so desperately desire is to visit the Wizard of Oz. This friendly foursome stops at nothing, despite the Witch’s attempts to deter them, in order to find what they’ve been looking for.
What we loved: The ripples of laughter which bubbled up from the audience every time the Scarecrow fell down or the Lion cried was a joy to experience. Adults laughed at the jokes only adults would understand and the children laughed at the hilarity and animation the characters brought to the screen. The bobbing of heads and the whispers of people singing along to the songs which have resonated for years made the viewing experience feel like sitting in a theatre rather than a cinema. For those who grew up loving this movie, you will find yourself smirking while you reminisce about the times you watched the movie as a kid. For the children you bring to watch, they will enjoy the upbeat tempo of the songs, the vibrancy of the colours of the Munchkins and Oz, Glinda the Good Witch and Dorothy’s great ruby slippers.
What we didn’t: The incorporation of 3D for this film does more for the emptying of your pocket than enhancing your viewing experience. The film was not intended for 3D. There are no apples being thrown at the screen or poppies rising up into your faces. Most of the time, you feel like you’re watching the movie as it was shown back in the 1930s, and the way we watch in our homes, forgetting it is 3D.
Parental advisory (potential spoilers): The Wicked Witch of the West is alarmingly frightening! Watching her hooked, green nose as she screeched with laughter scared me as a child and worried me as an adult, for I can be sure there have been children who have felt the same way about her as I did. The accompanying musical score during the moments the Witch and her flying-monkey minions are on screen, is eerie, especially for children unfamiliar with that sort of dark music.
Canadian rating: PG – Parental Guidance is suggested
Final verdict: For your own nostalgic purposes or to introduce your kids to a timeless classic which asserts that a brain, a heart, and courage are worth going to your ultimate limits to defend, buy your tickets and go. For those of you who are familiar with the movie and miss the fun-loving songs and the Lion’s “roar”, but don’t want to spend the extra money on an IMAX ticket, make some popcorn at home, grab a blanket and cuddle up with the kids — you won’t be missing out.