Film Review: The Wizard of Oz 3D

A timeless family classic finds potent new life in IMAX 3D.

There’s probably no movie I’ve watched more times than the wonderful Wizard of Oz, thanks to annual childhood TV viewings that seared its iconic imagery into my little brain. Now, in anticipation of the 1939 classic’s 75th anniversary, it’s been remastered in giant IMAX 3D, and those memorable moments have a new luster and show a surprising adaptability to the third dimension.

Aside from a little fuzziness in some of the long shots in the black-and-white portion of the film, this is a gorgeous presentation; it’s nice to discover that the oldest film ever converted to 3D (courtesy of Prime Focus) can look so good. And some of the 3D effects are so striking, one would think the movie had been made for the medium: sunbeams piercing through clouds in the Kansas prelude; Dorothy’s twister-swept house plummeting toward the camera; Glinda the good witch’s pink bubble floating above the audience; the vast field overrun with sleep-inducing poppies; the forbidding hallway leading to the Wizard’s immense floating head.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Even without 21st-century bells and whistles, it’s the superb craftsmanship of the Golden Age original that carries the day. Those whimsical Technicolor sets depicting the fantasy land of Oz remain a marvel; the songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg are a witty, ageless delight; Judy Garland is the model of innocence, vulnerability and pluck as heroine Dorothy Gale; Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and the inspired Bert Lahr define showmanship as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion; Frank Morgan is the perfect blustery charlatan as the less-than-miraculous Wizard; and Margaret Hamilton may be the most delightfully hissable villain in movie history as the irredeemable Wicked Witch.

Any parent who hasn’t yet introduced their child to this essential movie classic, shame on you. But now’s your chance to make amends with a big-screen reboot that should send everyone home humming “Over the Rainbow.”