My jolly good fun friend Jessica and I were working our way through a delicious round two at our favorite wine bar when a thought dropped out of the sky and crushed me, right there in my fabulous shoes. I was debating my options for the following day over a glass of Pinot noir (one that turned out to be too easy to drink); either I was going to get all the work done that I had taken home that evening, or I was going to take advantage of the sunny day and see the latest film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s Oz stories. Due to lack of leadership from the men and women behind the curtain, work has been cycloning out of control lately, so the choice was pretty clear to Jessica, me, and our empty wine glasses. Despite low expectations, the next afternoon somehow I found myself standing in line at the box office. Eating away at me more than the criminal ticket price—a price that would give Mom nightmares for a month—was that single thought from the previous evening, just as haunting sober as it was sloshy: the Wicked Witch of the West is not supposed to have cleavage.
Launching the Land of Oz and its inhabitants into the future hopefully keeps alive our precious 1939 classic, and viewing the returns to Oz with any sense of competition borders slightly on the absurd. How does one compare Fairuza Balk to Judy Garland or Kristin Chenoweth to Billie Burke . . . and doing so even necessary? From page to screen or page to stage, magic comes in many forms, and no two actors will interpret a character in precisely the same way. That said, this recent reincarnation of the West’s best was anything but. Remember when the science majors had to fulfill an arts requirement before graduation and ended up looking bored and stiff in their drama class productions? Scenes went on too long while plots and backstories were revealed too quickly, and above all, it felt disrespectful to the late and great Margaret Hamilton. At least her costume designers had the decency to cover up her lady parts. Rounding out the group and giving Oz its latest makeover was a politically correct and diverse ensemble of extras from around the globe . . . an issue with which I always have, if you’ll pardon the expression, mixed feelings. When I can see the effort, its intended effect is ruined.
Tears don’t come to me nearly as easily as they did when I was a child. That quirky little boy cried at anything and everything, so maybe the water supply evaporated all too quickly in my early years. These days when I feel a tear roll down my cheek, I tend to look up at the ceiling to see if the roof is leaking. There must be a “heartstrings safety net” that Oz filmmakers bank on when they slam us with prequels, sequels, and remakes . . . subtle reminders of my attachment to MGM’s 1939 masterpiece can’t help but stir up my dusty tear ducts. Miraculously my eyes may have experienced a heavy mist at times, but no tears actually flowed during this latest revision. An unusual reference to Snow White and original makeup tests for early visions of 1939’s witch were oddly placed and practically ruined a scene for which I had been waiting an hour. With a hunched posture and flimsy foot placement, this newest Witch of the West looked incredibly uncomfortable on her broom. Not once did I feel drawn to any of the female villains, and believe you me, that’s the acid test ‘round these parts. As I should have said to every girl I ever kissed, this isn’t working for me! A good witch performance is judged by how much my brutally honest child within longs to emulate both the character and the actress:
Margaret Hamilton, check!
Idina Menzel, check!
Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer, check!
Angelica Huston (hey, I guess witches can have cleavage), check !
This latest group of gals in Oz the Great and Powerful . . . we appreciate your efforts. I applaud anyone who has the courage not only to get in front of an audience but also reinterpret any roles as iconic as these. But ladies, these things must be done delicately, or you hurt the spell.