Friday, June 10, 2016

Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz - Angelo's Review

Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz, a follow-up to the direct-to-video film Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz and a sequel of sorts to the MGM film, was not something that I expected would be made. I didn't love Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz, and it seems like the overall response to the film from fans was rather mixed. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. has produced a follow-up, this one drawing from the books as well as from early drafts of the screenplay for the MGM film. 
With the Wicked Witch of the West now vanquished from Oz, Tom and Jerry along with Dorothy are back in Kansas! But not for long as an all-new villain has surfaced from beneath the magical land, the Gnome King! Having captured the Good Witch, the Gnome King and his army are wreaking havoc throughout Oz and need but one item to take control of The Emerald City, Dorothy's ruby slippers! It's up to our favorite cat and mouse duo to team up, go Back to Oz and save the land they love. Take to the skies, courtesy of the Wizard himself, with Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion as they make their magical journey. The laughs and adventure will roar as they encounter all-new frights and mischievous creatures down the Yellow Brick Road, 'cause "we're not in Kansas anymore!"
Yesterday, I wrote some about my frustration with Warner Bros. for not doing more with their Wizard of Oz property and questioned the decision to continue tying Oz to the Tom and Jerry brand rather than producing strictly-Oz content. Now having seen Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz, I see even greater potential for Warner Bros. and Oz. Why? Because, the presence of Tom and Jerry aside, this is actually a pretty decent little sequel to the MGM film. And, thankfully, the Tom and Jerry characters are more secondary this time around.

Did I mention that James
Monroe Iglehart is really
talented? The guy's a Tony
Award winner!
While the animation itself isn't particularly impressive, it's clear that a lot of care was given to faithfully re-create (and extend) the "world" of the MGM film (as was the case with the first outing), and though the animation may leave something to be desired, the voice acting here is top notch. Grey Griffin, Michael J. Gough, Rob Paulsen, and Todd Stashwick all reprise their roles as Dorothy, the Scarecrow (and Hunk), the Tin Man (and Hickory), and the Cowardly Lion (and Zeke), respectively and are joined by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame as the Gnome King in Oz and a character named Mr. Bibb in Kansas and James Monroe Iglehart, best known for his role as the Genie in Disney's Aladdin on Broadway, as the Jitterbug in Oz and a character named Calvin Carney in Kansas. Most impressive to me are the performances given by Iglehart, who has two musical numbers in the film, and by Joe Alaskey, whose Wizard of Oz not only sounds almost exactly like Frank Morgan's but also provides many of the film's genuinely funny and even poignant moments. The only performance that really bugged me was Frances Conroy's; her Glinda has a strange, very exaggerated accent that I found to be pretty obnoxious and a weak attempt at a Billie Burke impression.

The film is a musical and includes both a handful of original songs, written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and a few songs carried over from the MGM film, such as "Over the Rainbow" and "We're Off to See the Wizard." Likely to be one of the most exciting aspects of the film for fans of the MGM film is the inclusion of "The Jitterbug," which of course was written for the MGM film but was cut sometime before its release. Personally, I didn't find any of the new songs to be necessary or very memorable, but I didn't mind them being in there. I most enjoyed "A Mighty Fine Affair," which is expertly performed by Iglehart and is complimented by some really fun and colorful visuals.

Move over, Scarecrow, it looks to me like the Tin Man might
have his eyes set on Dorothy, too. (I'm kidding, although I am
admittedly a Dorothy/Scarecrow "shipper" myself.)

There's, surprisingly, a good amount of stuff in the film that I think will delight fans of the books, too. Although the film's Hungry Tiger and Queen of Field Mice have little in common with their Baum counterparts aside from their names, I found the film's portrayal of the Gnome (or "Nome") King to be pretty spot-on (and, hey, he's even referred to as "Ruggedo" once or twice, so I can't really complain there). I would've liked for the overall story to draw more from the books, especially because I think the story is the weakest aspect of the film, but again, I'm happy to see some nods to and characters from the books in an otherwise very MGM-centric sequel.

The Nome King wants the Ruby Slippers in order to take control
of the Emerald City? Sounds about right to me.

I'd definitely recommend that you see Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz, even if you're like me and didn't really care for Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz. It's not great by any means, but it is fun and enjoyable all things considered, and I would actually compare it to something like Lion of Oz or the Oz Kids films in terms of quality and tone.

Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz is now available to own digitally and will be available on DVD (but not on Blu-ray, sadly) on June 21, 2016. You can pre-order the DVD right here.

1 comment:

Mark R Hunter said...

I wasn't really interested in the sequel, but now I am--thanks for writing this.