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RETURN TO OZ

Fairuza Balk, Brian Henson

Arguably the biggest flop of 1985 and one of the biggest film risks of the decade would have to be Return to Oz, Disney's shortsighted sequel to the original Judy Garland film.

Now this was something. This movie was great. It turned out to be a very complicated and ambitious attempt to do something completely original, not just do what happened in the first movie again. The claymation, plot and subtle fantasy in-jokes were great.

What fantasy in-joke? Well, in the beginning, Dorothy's being taken to a quack psychiatrist because auntie Em believes she's going crazy with this whole imaginary "oz" place. In the psychiatrist's place, she's being asked questions, being scrutinized, and it's obvious to her that they don't believe her story. She glances over through a window into another room, and a similar scene is going on with another young girl, this one with blonde hair. They exchange a look. Later, they try to tell you that her name was "ozma", the second girl, but we knew better. It was ALICE. Alice from wonderland. They thought she was crazy too. She even was trapped in a mirror, later, and she needs dorothy's help to let her "step through the glass".

We could be wrong about that.

Another thing I noticed is that "Jack Pumpkinhead" seems to be the same creature that we see "Jack Skellington" dressed as in the first scene of the NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Tim Burton was working for Disney around the time, so I freaked out. I could be wrong about that as well.

What I know is that this movie was an incredibly ambitious and original way to take up a sequel. The scriptwriters took on the challenge by writing a completely different and similar movie. The characters, settings, dialogue are all very different. The themes and plot aren't really very different at all. There are comparisons to be made everywhere.

It's an excellent stoner movie. I'll be watching it again soon. There's still much more to be seen.

GRADE: A

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