I normally don’t post every OZ item that hits the Web, because there are usually so many and most are not directly tied to Judy Garland news, in general. That being said, the Web is all a buzz with the recent news from Warner Bros. that they plan to remake OZ using the original 1939 script.
Whether this planned remake actually gets made is another story. People have bandied OZ remakes and sequels around for years, much like the remakes of A Star is Born that have been announced and re-announced over the years. In an interview for Turner Classic Movies a few years back, director Jon Waters (who is a lifelong OZ fan) said that he would root for the failure of anyone who attempted to remake the 1939 classic. Looks like he might get that chance. I’m sure I don’t have to say that we’ll all be right there with him, in the bleachers, rooting for the failure of this remake. As he also mentioned, why don’t they remake the bad movies into good ones rather than tamper with films that are already perfect? Not only was Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho a waste of resources and celluloid, but does anyone remember the sequel to Gone With The Wind that appeared on TV in 1994? What a mistake that was, and it wasn’t even a remake. I could list the other recent remakes that failed (The Time Machine, The Grinch, Willie Wonka anyone?) or even the TV shows remade into big screen extravaganzas. Is there really that much of a drought of new ideas in Hollywood that don’t rely on sophomoric bathroom humor that they feel all they can do is remake great films? How many times do we have to hear, or read, this dribble about “modernizing” or “updating” or “doing what they couldn’t do back then” as justifications for these silly endeavors? Good grief!
I’m more hopeful for the currently-in-production computer animated sequel Dorothy Of Oz. Starring the voice of “Glee’s” Lea Michele as “Dorothy” along with Kelsey Grammar, Jim Belushi, Martin Short (among others), this new animated film is based on Roger S. Baum’s (great grandson of L. Frank Baum) book of the same name and is scheduled for release in 2011. It looks like it just might work. Their website DorothyOfOz.com has been updated with new artwork (example seen here) and interviews with Michele and the production staff. I’ve always felt that any sequel or new OZ story (forget remaking the 1939 original, it’s already perfect) would be best told via animation, especially computer animation. Still, without a good story and songs/music score this as well as any other OZ endeavor will fail. That’s not a critique of the new animated film, because I haven’t heard any of the songs or score nor do I know what the exact plot is (aside from Dorothy returning to OZ) – and I hope it’s a success. My point is that Baum’s OZ has such heart, that any version that lacks that heart – no matter how dazzling the effects or animation – will not succeed. That’s one of the many reasons the 1939 version still resonates. Among it’s amazing assets (the score, Judy’s performance, everyone else’s performance, the production values….) is the fact that the film has heart. It never shies away from that and never tries to be too clever or too dazzling. It succeeds on every level. Any new OZ endeavor will have to have heart (among other qualities) to succeed. Disney’s Return to Oz failed, in my opinion, for this very reason.
Time will tell. This news story could be a trial balloon that Warner Bros. has sent out to gauge audience reaction to an actual remake of the 1939 classic. Let’s keep those Facebook and Twitter accounts active in letting Warner Bros. know that they’re wasting time and money (ours included!) on something that, in the end, will never – ever – stand anywhere close to the original.
UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly reports that Zemeckis is not directing a remake, and that the idea is on the “back burner”: