|Buena Vista Pictures | Release Date: June 21, 1985||CRITIC SCORE DISTRIBUTION|
First of all, it has no music. That aside, it doesn't have any wit, joy, or drive. Children who haven't had the pleasure of seeing The Wizard of Oz might enjoy this film, but it will also frighten them. There are some fine, Oscar-nominated special effects, but the excitement just isn't there.
The inventiveness that has gone into this, and into turning Oz into a land of lavish special effects, will be lost on anyone with a fondness for the 1939 musical classic. That film will always enchant adults and children alike. This joyless new Return to Oz isn't likely to appeal to the former, and may give many of the latter a good scare. Children are sure to be startled by the new film's bleakness. Read full review
The makers of Return to Oz say that their rather bleak, nonmusical fantasy is more faithful to Mr. Baum's vision than "The Wizard of Oz" was. What's appropriate, however, isn't always what's right. All Ms. Balk can do is look earnest and young; Ms. Garland opened her mouth and out came Dorothy's soul.
Dorothy encounters a pumpkin with stick limbs, a tin soldier and something called a Gump, which looks suspiciously like your basic moosehead. They are all mechanical marvels, not actors, which means they can do anything except win an audience's heart. Still, it would defy the gifts of an Olivier to find interesting, amusing life in a context as charmless and joyless (and songless) as the one Murch and his design team have concocted. [1 July 1985, p.63]
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