I’m divided on the latest re-release of The Wizard of Oz. I’m not dramatically “on the fence”. I would lean towards a hearty recommendation in an instant. But, it has me feeling many different things.
On one hand, I’m very grateful this film is getting another run in select theatres. As someone who has never seen The Wizard of Oz (I know, I know…), I’m pleased myself and other newbies get a chance to see the classic in a theatrical environment.
The Wizard of Oz has no problem enchanting audiences. It has since its original 1939 release where it wowed movie goers with its show-stopping use of Technicolor. Past the remarkable technical achievement is a story that’s overflowing with imagination and charm. Even in present day, we believe that this magical land of Oz exists. The mystical forests, the luscious meadows full of mesmerizing poppies, and the stunning Emerald City are all lifted out of a fairytale, yet we don’t have any difficulties believing in this make-believe land.
The performances hit all the right notes – both emotionally and musically – and our main troupe made up of a hopeful dreamer named Dorothy (played by Judy Garland), a mindless Scarecrow (played by Ray Bolger), a cold Tin Man (played by Jack Haley), and a Lion who’s just a big pussycat (played by Bert Lahr) are a joy to root for. They form a type of heartfelt friendship that only true underdogs develop.
While Garland does a great job at playing a meek Southerner trying to find her way back to Kansas, the performances by Bolger, Haley, and Lehr are especially memorable. They’re ability to adapt their characters and mannerisms to lively choreography is nothing short of terrific.
As an outsider with only a few insights on The Wizard of Oz, it was very interesting to see what was labeled as humorous and innocent in the 30’s and how it holds up nowadays. The performing group called The Singing Midgets who play the Munchkins have a role that feels just plain strange these days. Their melodies are tinny or grumbled – which feels as if it was intended to sound like that – and their presence is overwhelming. It adds that necessary zest to this fantastical tale, but that introduction to Oz feels very odd.
The restoration of this re-release has a phenomenal presentation. The colours have been obviously touched up to add an extra punch and the picture is crystal clear. Everyone sitting in the audience can tell that this release was not done as a quick cash grab, but because there are technicians, film aficionados, and a dedicated studio who have a strong love for Victor Fleming’s original work.
However, the selection of theatrical format is where my exuberance slightly sputters. The IMAX screen is a venue of mass proportions offering lots of chances for a film to be beautiful. But, since The Wizard of Oz is of standard definition, it never had a chance to utilize the IMAX format to the fullest degree.
The choice to convert the picture to 3D is questionable too. They’ve pulled it off with no errors and the post-conversion is there to give the film more of a modernized presence. But, other than a few waves of Glinda the Good Witch’s wand, her transporting bubble, and some flaring smoke and flames, the post-conversion is a bit pointless. The admirable restoration was enough to give it that up-to-date rejuvenation. I guess if you’re going to play an IMAX screen, you might as well be in 3D too. Go big or go back to Kansas.
The choice to screen a re-release of The Wizard of Oz in IMAX 3D may be a head scratcher, but it’s still definitely worth the price of admission to catch the endearing classic in theatres. Especially since the re-release seems adamant to stick to its “one week only” run.
It would be a perfect pick for a first date or for a night out with the family. I was fortunate to see an earlier showing exit into the lobby, including a family of four with huge grins on their faces and wide eyed children. It was a moment that was equally as magical as the movie.