“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” becomes grist for an earnest exercise in child therapy in “After the Wizard,” a maudlin drama about a modern-day Kansas girl who identifies a bit too closely with the characters in L. Frank Baum’s beloved storybook. Primarily a fish-out-of-water fantasy in which the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman find themselves traversing the Midwest, writer-director Hugh Gross’ wooden if well-meaning indie has its charms, but may leave over-imaginative tots feeling patronized rather than captivated. Pic will segue quickly to DVD following a brief theatrical release.
Troubled 12-year-old orphan Elizabeth (Jordan Van Vranken) is mildly Oz-obsessed, insisting everyone call her Dorothy and imagining the Scarecrow (Jermel Nakia) and the Tin Woodman (Orien Richman) have traveled to Kansas by hot-air balloon, car and train to find her. Plodding between a wide-eyed, childlike perspective and the frowning skepticism of a concerned orphanage director (Helen Richman), the gentle-toned pic pays dubious tribute to Baum’s classic, the power of the imagination and the kindness of strangers. Nakia and Richman are both game (and inventively costumed on a budget by Stephanie Powers), but Toto gives the best performance by a mile.