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DVD Review: ‘The Witches of Oz’

★★☆☆☆

Produced by Imaginarium and directed by Leigh Scott, The Witches of Oz (2011) is a short TV mini-series which revisits the magical Wizard of Oz world from a modern point of view. With quite a few known names in the cast – such as Christopher Lloyd, Lance Henriksen, Sean Astin and Billy Boyd – the story presents a grown up Dorothy Gale who is now an acclaimed children’s book author.

Leaving Kansas behind, Dorothy moves to New York City following the success of his stories about the Land of Oz – but along with having to adjust to a reality which is miles away from the small-town environment she grew up in, she also starts noticing a lot of weird and mysterious things happening around her. Slowly, she realises that what the world she imagined for her books is a product of her repressed childhood memories, and that Oz is not made up but, on the contrary, quite a vivid reality…

The magical, almost dreamlike story imagined by L.Frank Baum in his novels about the fantastical world of Oz has always had a huge appeal on writers and producers, and countless versions and adaptations have been attempted for both the small and big screen. The Witches of Oz is one of these; yet, while the idea behind it – to imagine Dorothy as the writer of the adventures herself – is a fascinating one that can ideally lead to an interesting reworking of the story, the way this TV series has been crafted just flattens out any initial interest the plot outline may have sparked. In fact, the idea might as well be the only good thing about this production.

Even if you’re willing to look past the uninspired and at times ridiculous costumes and make-up – which make Dorothy Gale look like the personification of a weird and slightly irritating cartoon character, for instance – the actors’ performances also continuously shift from bland to unnecessarily and childishly over-the-top.

Paulie Rojas, who plays Dorothy, is unforgivably wooden in her wide-eyed expressions – seemingly constantly looking for inspiration within the script, but never contributing any input of her own. Lance Henriksen is concentrated and serious – though he’s not given any room to really develop his character; the rest of the characters are introduced quite slowly, and the audience is expected to get to know and empathise with them while not much is happening on screen – quite a difficult feat, since they are all but ordinary and should instead be striking and memorable.

The weak script is also complemented by special effects which are anything but good or believable – and will probably strike the viewers as very naive, basic and amateurish.

In conclusion, if you are willing to look past all of these and arm yourself with patience and low expectations, you might be able to get to the end fairly unscathed. If this is not your case, though, you’re better off reaching for the 1939 Victor Fleming’s Wizard of Oz – safe in the knowledge that, yet again, its magic has not been topped.

Margherita Pelligrino