Posts Tagged ‘Toto’

THE LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN: 2 STARS. “I smell flying monkeys!”

1015933-oz-1200“I smell flying monkeys!”

So says a character in “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return,” a new family film that adds a chapter to L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” series.

Where there are flying monkeys you can bet there’ll also be a Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and a Lion (as played by James Belushi he’s no longer cowardly and now suggests tearing his enemies “limb from limb.”) and, of course, witch killer Dorothy (Lea Michele) and her little dog Toto. All make appearances but this time around they’re up against a different foe—an evil Jester (Martin Short).

The movie begins several Oz years after Dorothy vanquished the Wicked Witch of the West. In her time, however, only hours have passed. When she wakes in her bed in Kansas the tornado from the original story has just laid waste to her town, but before you can say “Well, howdy, Miss Gulch,” the young girl is sucked up by a giant rainbow and transported to the world of Oz. “You guys,” she says, “dragging me into a giant rainbow really scared me!”

Trouble is, things aren’t so wonderful in Oz. The Emerald City is in turmoil at the hands of a power hungry Jester who is turning the citizenry into marionettes. Dorothy, with the help of new friends Wiser the Owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty) and Tugg the Tugboat (Patrick Stewart) must stop the Jester and rescue Scarecrow, the Tin Man and Lion before they are turned into puppets.

There are some good messages for kids in “The Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” about working together—as heard in the clumsily rhymed “out it all together until the job is done, it should be easy, it should be fun”—and the importance of friendship. It’s just too bad they are wrapped up in a film so saccharine it would give the Wicked Witch of the West a sugar rush.

The flying monkeys are still kinda scary but the rest of the movie practically redefines the term “family friendly,” and not in all the best ways. It plays it safe to a fault throughout, smoothing over any edge until there is not much left but some poppy tunes (by Bryan Adams among others) and a story that relies on the goodwill of characters created several generations ago.

“The Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” won’t give Pixar a run for their money and might be best saved for a rainy day rental.

BEST LINES EVER! “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” – Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of Oz, 1939 By Richard Crouse

wizard-of-oz-original1It’s unlikely anyone needs a synopsis of The Wizard of Oz—my favorite is Rick Polito’s of the Marin Independent Journal, who wrote, “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”— but just in case you haven’t read a book or magazine or gone on-line or snapped on your TV in the last seventy years, here goes: Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) and her dog Toto are swept away from black and white Kansas by a tornado that lands them in a Technicolor world of wonder called Oz. Realizing that there is no place like home Dot sets off on the Yellow Brick Road in search of the powerful Wizard of Oz who can help her return home. Along the path she hooks up with some unusual new friends—a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a Tin Woodman (Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)—and makes one enemy, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) who badly wants Dorothy’s bedazzled Ruby Slippers. Hope I didn’t spoil it for you.

Since 1939 The Wizard of Oz’s most famous line has been used a thousand different ways. From Avatar to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, variations of “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” have dotted scripts, often used as a punch line in violent situations. For instance it draws a laugh in the wild video game Crash Nitro Kart but in 1939 it wasn’t the joke but a set up for a joke.

“The line ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore’ is the line that became classic but it is basically there as a setup for Judy Garland’s next line, when Billie Burke comes into view, and Garland says, ‘Now I KNOW I’m not in Kansas,’” says Wizard of Oz expert John Fricke. “It really is an adult humor kind of line. What’s impressive about it is that this 16 year old girl would have the Elaine Stritch kind of take on what has just happened to her and to not read it with an adult tone but read it with that great sincerity that Garland had yet with the dryness the line requires.”

Who, exactly, wrote what on The Wizard of Oz is a bit of a mystery. Three writers are credited in the titles—Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf—but a long list of Hollywood who’s who worked on the script. It’s likely that most of what appears on screen came from the pens of those three—they came up with the idea to have Frank Morgan appear as not only The Wizard of Oz but Professor Marvel, The Gatekeeper, The Carriage Driver and The Doorman and they created the “There’s no place like Home” ending motif—but at one time or another Herman J. Mankiewicz (who went on to win an Oscar three years later for his Citizen Kane script) and Ogden Nash were among the fourteen screenwriters who also contributed material. (In fact, the surviving versions of the film’s multiple scripts makes a pile five feet high.) Who wrote the movie’s “Kansas” line—it doesn’t appear in the original Frank L. Baum books—is up for debate. Regardless of who wrote the line, however, it has gone on to become one of the most quoted in movie history.

“It sort of sums up the whole plot in one line: ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,’ says Fricke. “Plus by the time she gets to ‘Now I KNOW we’re not in Kansas’ you’ve had Munchkins peaking up from behind the bushes; you’ve had this pink bubble coming into view; you’ve had Judy backing off camera and Billie Burke turning up so you are kind of emotionally removed from the first line. The second line is the payoff and the button but I don’t think people usually put them together. There’s too much going on at any moment on the Wizard of Oz, especially if you see it on the big screen and are so over whelmed by it or if you are seeing it for the first time.”