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Film Review: 'Legends Of Oz: Dorothy Returns'

Renée Fabian |
May 11, 2014 | 11:44 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Dorothy and her companions, old and new. (IMDB)
Dorothy and her companions, old and new. (IMDB)
In a poor, animated attempt to create something like "The Wizard of Oz" 2.0 sans munchkins, "Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return", geared towards kids, is a colorful ride through weak and predictable plotlines, shallow characters, cheap almost-laughs and a decent soundtrack. 

Dorothy Gale (Lea Michele) is snatched up via an aggressive rainbow and dumped off in the troubled Land of Oz by her friends the Lion (James Belushi), Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd) and Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer). It turns out the Jester (Martin Short)—the Wicked Witch of the West’s alleged brother—has besmirched the grand Emerald City. Again following the yellow brick road, collecting characters Wiser the Owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy) and the China Princess (Megan Hilty) as her companions, Dorothy sets out to rid Oz of the Jester’s lame, yet intolerable reign of prankster horror.

Except for the plot, the film might have been great. Hardly an original story, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return seems like a shoddy attempt to recreate The Wizard of Oz, simply switching out Dorothy’s original companions and the villain for new, superficial ones. There is no bigger goal, no overarching meaning or theme and no true reason to root for Dorothy because we’ve seen it all before, except better. This version feels half-baked. Though by the end there’s a little investment in these cartoonish characters, it's certainly not worth remembering. Except for maybe Dorothy's little dog Toto. 

ALSO SEE: ‘Oz’ Whips Up Charmed Origin Story

The Jester and Glinda. (IMDB)
The Jester and Glinda. (IMDB)
The film is also a bit uneven in tone. For example, the Jester quips light-humoredly about his costume with a creepy looking Glinda (Bernadette Peters) then turns around and pretends to be legitimately sinister. It's not believable, even after Jester explains his bad-boy issues are a result of his Wicked Witch of a sister. There is a lot of telling and not a lot of showing, further weakening the narrative. Attempts at humor are too literal or forced. A brief detour to Candy County Court—only loosely understood to be the Jester’s ploy to destroy Dorothy—features a “peanut gallery” of candy peanuts, and a group of “Peeps” instead of peers. It’s not even cute.

This movie is geared towards children, but that is no excuse. The best-animated films from Disney or Pixar succeed largely because they are complicated human stories presented in an animated package. The humor is witty and natural. These films have multi-layered stories with complex characters who overcome literal and metaphorical obstacles that can be read on a variety of levels for people of all ages, not just children. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return has none of that.

ALSO SEE: Film Review: ‘Frozen’

Based on the novel by Roger S. Baum, the screenplay is written by Adam Balsam and Randi Barnes and directed by Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre. The animation is first class and vibrant. A combination of a more traditional musical score with the occasional pause for popish, cheesy songs is perhaps unconventional, but it doesn't make the film worse. The orchestral score by Toby Chu is particularly excellent. In addition, Michele and Hilty’s characteristically strong vocal chops don’t disappoint in their musical features.

While there’s some fun to be had with Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, it's minimal and there is certainly not a lot of depth. Definitely check out the soundtrack, but with a plot and characters as shallow as a puddle, it can be hard to sit through. If you’re looking for an Oz fix, don’t bother with this, watch the original.

Reach Staff Reporter Renee Fabian here. Read more by Renee at VersustheFans.com.



 

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