Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return begins with some of the most charming opening credits you've ever seen... and it's pretty much all downhill from there. Sadly, not even the lineup of heavy hitters who signed on to voice this mess can save it.
Our story begins right after Dorothy (Lea Michele, New Year's Eve) has returned to Kansas, which is not in black and white this time around. The devastation left by the twister that took Dorothy and Toto to Oz is everywhere; the entire town has been all but leveled (one of many inconsistencies in this story is the location of that town; the Gale farm appears to be out in the country but Dorothy appears in town at the drop of a hat with no apparent means of travel). Everything must go, according to a shifty appraiser (Martin Short, Madagascar 3). Sign over your land and hit the road, people. Amazingly, all the sheep-like adults line up to do just that with young Dorothy the only one who thinks there might be another way. Maybe they're still in shock from the storm? As you'd expect, Dorothy sings a heartfelt song to her chickens and friends—not a particularly memorable number, but it's performed well. It's just another post-disaster day until a rainbow appears and pulls Dorothy back to the land of Oz. And her little dog, too.
Back in the Emerald City, things are looking bleak. As you may recall, the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd, Yogi Bear) was left in charge when the Wizard sailed off in his hot-air balloon. Many years later (time moves differently in Oz) Scarecrow and his buddies Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer, X-Men: The Last Stand) and the no-longer-cowardly Lion (James Belushi, Hoodwinked) are under attack from their old foes, the flying monkeys. This time the creatures have been unleashed by the Jester (Martin Short again), a not-so-funny foe who wants to—what else?—rule all of Oz.
Naturally, it's up to Dorothy to save the day. With her original companions out of commission and no convenient Munchkins to sing her on her way, she'll have to make new friends and find a new road to the Emerald City. First to join the group is Wiser (Oliver Platt, Frost/Nixon), an overweight owl with a tendency to talk incessantly. After an unlawful, Jester-induced feeding frenzy in Candy County—accompanied by a song that's more saccharine than sweet—they team up with Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy, Our Idiot Brother), a dutiful soldier who can't think beyond a direct order. Rounding out their little crew is the China Princess (Megan Hilty), a prettily-painted figurine who could be more accurately named the China Diva. A narcissistic, bad-tempered little madamoiselle who puts off porcelain suitors by singing high-pitched opera until they shatter, the Princess is the most poorly-written of the characters. Her story has no arc; her personality just u-turns for no apparent reason. The China Girl from Oz the Great and Powerful was a much more appealing ambassador of her land, but then that movie was much more appealing than this one in every way.
It's hard to know what the film makers were thinking. The animation and story, such as it is, seems designed to appeal to young viewers (think G rather than PG rating). However, the monkeys are a little too creepy and the vocabulary much too showy for the tiny tot crowd; the sight of broken chunks of china doll faces still blinking and talking has nightmare potential. And, there's just no point to it all. The message, if there is one, seems to be that adults are idiots and only a brave little girl and her dog can save the day. Apart from some cute scenery and the adorable Toto, there's nothing to redeem this film. Even the songs are lame. Give it a miss and just go re-watch the original Wizard of Oz.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: A greedy over-consumption of candy.
- Language/Profanity: The closest thing to profanity was one of the Candy County citizens exclaiming "What the devil's food?!" Jester is often hateful to his monkeys, calling one an "evolutionary reject."
- Sex/Nudity: A little mild romance, but nothing disturbing.
- Violent/Frightening/Intense: The flying monkeys could be a little intense for some viewers. Broken china doll faces talk and appear to be alive, which was disturbing to watch. A number of china figurines are broken and carried off to "the menders." There's an encounter with a waterfall and similar 'people in peril' scenes.
Publication date: May 9, 2014
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