After the Wizard (2011)
In Need of More Emeralds and Magic
Twelve-year-old Elizabeth Haskens (Jordan Van Vranken) is one of many children who live in a Kansas orphanage under the supervision of the soon to retire Mrs. Murphy (Helen Richman). Like others at the orphanage, Mrs. Murphy is concerned for Elizabeth as the twelve year old is in insistent that her name is Dorothy and she is the Dorothy from L. Frank Baum's novel "The Wizard of Oz" which she constantly reads. After the latest disagreement brought on by Elizabeth's insistence of being Dorothy she finds herself in detention but it is there she is visited by the Tin Man (Orien Richman) and the Scarecrow (Jermel Nakia) who have journeyed from Oz to find Dorothy as they need her help to restore Oz as since the wizard left it has fallen apart.
First things first and writer and director Hugh Gross is a brave man as anyone who takes the classic "The Wizard of Oz" and attempts to deliver a spin-off story is walking straight into a tornado of trouble. As such for those who come to "After the Wizard" aware of the connection and expecting something on the grand scale of the classic are going to be hugely disappointed to the point of maybe becoming angry when we get to meet the characters of the Tin man, Scarecrow and Lion let alone when we venture to Oz which is clearly shot in a quarry.
But then I am also going to defend Hugh Gross as the idea he has come up with is actually not half bad. Firstly there is the simple storyline aimed at children as we have this further adventure involving the Tin Man and the Scarecrow trying to make it to Dorothy in Kansas. It is simple enough to be entertaining for young children with the emphasis on the young and there is some imagination to it as well which makes it more than just a movie which is trading on the classic. Basically gross has come up with some good ideas which if it had been built upon and given a better budget could have made for a good movie rather than one which looks like it has been made on the cheap.
Then there is another level and it is one which I might be reading too much into the movie but we have the character of Elizabeth, an orphan who is insistent on saying that she is Dorothy. Now the more grown up movie could give us this mystery as to whether or not Elizabeth has created a world to live in to deal with the misery of her childhood as at one point we are told that she has had a troubled background. But again it is a good idea which needed more elaborating upon and more money to make work.
What this all boils down to is that part of me likes "After the Wizard" because of the ideas which Hugh Gross has and honestly believe these ideas could have been used to create something genuinely good for all ages. But unfortunately the look of "After the Wizard", some of the acting and also the pacing all hold "After the Wizard" back and make it a movie only for the very young rather than those who have cherished memories of the classic.
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