Breaking Glass // 2011 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // September 7th, 2012
When One Story Ends...Another Begins.
Twelve-year-old Elizabeth Haskens (Jordan Van Vranken) lives in an orphanage in Kansas, run by Mrs. Murphy (Helen Richman). Like others at the orphanage, Mrs. Murphy is troubled by Elizabeth's insistence that she is really Dorothy, from L. Frank Baum's novel The Wizard of Oz. Whilst serving detention, Elizabeth, or Dorothy, is visited by the Tin Man (Orien Richman) and the Scarecrow (Jermel Nakia) who have left Oz to find her. The two tell Dorothy that they come seeking her help to restore Oz to its former glory; it has fallen into disarray since the Wizard left.
It's hard not to feel underwhelmed by After The Wizard, an honest but poorly conceived extension of The Wizard of Oz story. Writer-director Hugh Gross was driven to make the film after having a vision of The Tin Man and the Scarecrow arriving in Dorothy's home of Kansas, and clearly Gross has a passion for the characters and world created by author L. Frank Baum. However, passion and drive are only part of what makes a good film; vital ingredients such as invention and imagination are sadly lacking here.
Anyone expecting a traditional Oz tale will be left sorely disappointed, as After The Wizard is actually the story of a troubled young girl who uses The Wizard of Oz as a means of escape from her reality. It's true that Gross introduces a fair bit of ambiguity to his story. While this adds a level of intrigue initially as to whether Elizabeth really is Dorothy, it actually leaves the film a little too open-ended, considering its young target audience. While young Elizabeth is able to see and interact with the Oz exiles, none of the other characters -- with the exception of those we see in the Tin Man and Scarecrow's tale of how they got to Kansas -- can. Coupled with the details we are given of Elizabeth's tragic childhood, this would suggest the film is purely about a troubled young soul who has taken solace in Baum's book, which in turn has led to her overactive imagination making her believe she really is Dorothy. Yet, while this may be the most likely explanation, to stick with this interpretation of the film would require vast chunks of its narrative to be ignored -- not to mention such notions will be lost entirely on young children. Adults, on the other hand, are more likely to be frustrated that the story doesn't go anywhere close to addressing the clear psychological problems Elizabeth is suffering from.
As family friendly as After the Wizard is in terms of its content, the pacing is likely to prove a problem for all but the most patient of children. Anyone expecting any of the magic of MGM's The Wizard of Oz, or even its darker follow-up Return to Oz will be left disappointed by what is in truth a glorified TV movie. Too much time is spent on incidental details, whilst the bigger questions posed by the picture are left hanging. The few glimpses we get of Oz lack the splendor one is accustomed to, and appear to take place primarily at an abandoned industrial complex. Given the film's small budget, I wouldn't expect anything too grand from After The Wizard, but surely a more suitable location could have been found for these scenes? Likewise, the few scenes that involve effects work -- in particular a scene where Scarecrow and the Tin Man are in a hot-air balloon -- suffer from audio issues that seem entirely unnecessary.
Taking everything into account, the cast is pretty decent. A few of the performances are a little wooden, but nothing embarrassingly so. Helen Richman, who plays Mrs. Murphy, gives the standout performance here, bringing a very real warmth to the picture.
The DVD extras include a commentary track from Gross, which, with the "World Premier" featurette, really shows the ambition behind this project. The featurette emphasizes the belief all involved had in this film, which extends to the interviews that are included separately on the disc.
The film's DVD presentation features a clean transfer. The picture is sharp, with good levels of detail. The soundtrack is clear, but as already mentioned: dialogue does suffer from added echo during effects heavy scenes.
An interesting extension of The Wizard of Oz, After The Wizard is well-made, warm, and undoubtedly unique, but there's no escaping the fact that its lacks the spark of imagination to be truly be worthy of consideration.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Breaking Glass
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated