Critic scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.
First of all, it has no music. That aside, it doesn't have any wit, joy, or drive. Children who haven't had the pleasure of seeing The Wizard of Oz might enjoy this film, but it will also frighten them. There are some fine, Oscar-nominated special effects, but the excitement just isn't there. Read full review
It's bleak, creepy, and occasionally terrifying. Studio pressure apparently forced Murch to back off from the full fury of his conception, but this is still strong stuff. Read full review
It’s enthralling as well as rambling, you do miss the songs, but there is clearly no place for them here. Best to see them as individual films with nothing in common apart from source material, one a classic, the other a strong enough picaresque amongst some decent fabulation. Read full review
Everyone who grew up with the full range of the Oz books is deeply in Murch's debt. However, the framework surrounding Return to Oz is dark and, I suspect, terribly frightening for very young children. [21 Jun 1985, p.1] Read full review
Kids probably will enjoy portions of Return to Oz, but at best, it's a mechanical movie that never finds a real heart to engage an audience. [21 Jun 1985, p.79] Read full review
Dorothy's friends are as weird as her enemies, which is faithful to the original Oz books but turns out not to be a virtue on film, where the eerie has a tendency to remain eerie no matter how often we're told it's not. [22 Jun 1985, p.E3] Read full review
The inventiveness that has gone into this, and into turning Oz into a land of lavish special effects, will be lost on anyone with a fondness for the 1939 musical classic. That film will always enchant adults and children alike. This joyless new Return to Oz isn't likely to appeal to the former, and may give many of the latter a good scare. Children are sure to be startled by the new film's bleakness. Read full review
The Disney people have taken such obvious care in making Return to Oz that it's a shame it didn't turn out better. It has its moments - mostly visual - but when it isn't a grim downer, it's largely inert. [21 Jun 1985, p.21] Read full review
The Nome King looks like a moveable Mt. St. Helens and he alone is magical. In fact, he blows Dorothy and her tacky-looking friends off the screen. So we end up liking the Nome King and hating Dorothy and her crowd, which I doubt was the intention of the L. Frank Baum series. [21 Jun 1985, p.1] Read full review
The makers of Return to Oz say that their rather bleak, nonmusical fantasy is more faithful to Mr. Baum's vision than "The Wizard of Oz" was. What's appropriate, however, isn't always what's right. All Ms. Balk can do is look earnest and young; Ms. Garland opened her mouth and out came Dorothy's soul. Read full review
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