Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Marvelous Land of Oz

(Gerald Potterton/Tim Reid, 1987)
Typical of the upstanding citizens at Cinar to list the directors behind their brand in the credits and nowhere on the box. I bet the Margot Kidder 'narration' was their idea too - sounds like she's cold-reading screen directions over somebody's shoulder. And with a direct-to-cable budget, you can be sure that Potterton won't let loose with the spectacular graphic displays that he brought to "Yellow Submarine" or "Heavy Metal". So watching this work - among his last in the medium - is a reminder that Potterton could do characterization, too. Forget the characters familiar from MGM - this 'public domain' appropriation of the Oz narrative tweaks them into generic inoffensiveness, just different enough to be the same. But the uppity palace-crashers Mombi and Jinjur are retrieved from Baum's impossibly period-specific suffragette parody and given a genuinely inspired makeover. One an old hag on a magic learning curve, the other a Valley Girlish whiner/slacker, the two get a really nice comic interlock going. (Wish I could credit the actors, but Cinar is keeping that info to themselves too). Potterton's refusal to sugar-coat Ozma's gender-bending genesis is further evidence that he's still got the spirit. Unfortunately, the squandered climax is typical of the film's pervasive failings: the gestures toward grand effect all look cheap, and without much to occupy the eye, the mind wanders.

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