It’s six months after Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) returned from Oz (actually forty-six years in real time). Dorothy can’t shut up about her wonderful adventures in Oz, which earns her a trip to the local sanitarium for shock treatment. After escaping, Dorothy wakes up back in Oz, this time with her chicken Billina (voiced by Denise Bryer), which now has the ability to talk. She finds everyone in Oz turned to stone because of the evil Nome King (Nicol Williamson). Dorothy and her new band of pals: Tik Tok, an iron soldier (voice of Sean Barrett), scarecrow Jack (voice of Brian Henson), and the head of a Gump (it’s like a moose) (voiced by Lyle Conway) set out to help the Oz-ites (Oz-ians?) yet again.
The original film never scared me as a child (though it’s infamous for scaring small children), but this one did. Princess Mombi (Jean Marsh) is a hell of a lot scarier than the Wicked Witch—she keeps craniums in glass cases and occasionally walks around without one of her own. She wants to lock Dorothy in a tower until her “head is ready.” There are also the Wheelers—guys with abnormally long arms and legs that end in wheels. They wear creepy masks and threaten to tear Dorothy into pieces. Not to mention the sanitarium, with “residents who were damaged and locked in the cellar.” Not to say the whole film is terrifying. There are a lot of humorous moments. I myself am tickled by newly lingual Billina asking Dorothy, “How’s my grammar?” and Jack asking, “Would you please check my head for signs of spoiling?”
Sure, the original is a classic, but Return certainly has its merits. My favorite aspect is Dorothy’s 180° change in personality; she’s a whole lot less whiny and weepy. She’s a boss among her new friends. She’s tough, smart, and powerful. All in all, the performances are great, the sets are exquisite, and the special effects are decent for the mid-80s.