I had high hopes for this miniseries, After all, "Tin Man" is one of my favorite miniseries ever, and this one stars Billy Boyd, Sean Astin, Jeffrey Combs and Christopher Lloyd.
Sadly, "The Witches of Oz" is a massive misfire right from the beginning -- it tries to be both an epic, intense adventure story and a kid-friendly all-you-need-is-love fairy tale at the same time. Lloyd, Boyd and a handful of other actors do what little they can to salvage the story, but the hammy acting, bad CGI and slapworthy ending make it impossible.
Budding writer Dorothy Gale (Paulie Rojas) is stunned when prominent agent Billie Westbrook (Eliza Swenson) develops an interest in the Oz books she's been writing with her friend Allen (Ari Zagaris). Dorothy and Allen move to New York City, unaware that the Wicked Witch of the West and her head-swapping minion Princess Langwidere (Mia Sara) are plotting against her.
Specifically, they want a key to a magic book which Dorothy had when she returned from Oz many years ago. But Dorothy has forgotten about her time in Oz, so she can't remember where she put the key. Along with Allen, her new buddy Bryan (Barry J. Ratcliffe) and love interest Nick (Boyd), she must find the key before the Witch has a chance to take over all worlds.
"The Witches of Oz" is a schizophrenic mess of a story. It wants to be a big, dark save-the-world story, but it also wants to be a kiddie-friendly family film. Even worse, it seems to have been made up as it went -- foreshadowing comes to naught (Nick's identity), important items go unmentioned until they're needed, and random characters pop out of the woodwork without warning.
It also feels like the budget was somebody allowance -- the costumes are silly (Glinda looks like a cut-rate Valkyrie) and the special effects are simply embarrassing. I will admit that there are some really moving moments, such as Jeffrey Combs as a grieving father whose child has been swept away to Oz.
But the rest of the movie is just so cheesy and campy, and riddled with gaping plot holes that you could fly a taxi through. It all climaxes in a truly horrendous battle through a magically-ravaged NYC, where the Evil Minions of the Evil Witch... lightly annoy the New York residents. Apparently flying monkeys, dragons and evil gnomes don't kill people -- they just sort of whack them with sticks.
Oh, and the ending? It completely negates everything that has gone on before it, by revealing that everything both the heroes and villains did was TOTALLY POINTLESS. And its "all you need is love/friendship" message is completely negated by what happens at the climax.
Some of the actors are really, really good. Boyd is charming, low-key and resolutely normal, Combs is heartbreakingly good, Astin and Ethan Embry are fun, and Christopher Walken is slyly clever in his brief role. Sadly, Rojas seems to be stuck in "wide-eyed ingenue" mode, and that's how she plays every emotion that Dorothy is supposed to experience.
And the actors playing the villains are just awful, especially since they're all played for bad comic relief. None of them are even slightly scary! Swenson is particularly tragic -- she gives a very good performance when she looks human, but transforms into a hissing growling parody of Margaret Hamilton buried under bad green makeup as the Witch. She's less frightening than the Kardashians.
"The Witches of Oz" tries to be too many things, and ends up as nothing -- a whimsically candy-sweet mess that makes absolutely no sense by the end. Just watch "Tin Man."