Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Directors: Will Finn, Dan St. Pierre
Writers: Adam Balsam, Randi Barnes, Roger S. Baum
Voice Cast: Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, Kelsey Grammer, Lea Michele, Tacey Adams, Michael Krawic, Martin Short, Bernadette Peters, Randi Soyland, Oliver Platt, Hugh Dancy, Patrick Stewart, Megan Hilty, Bonnie Wright
Synopsis: Dorothy wakes up in post-tornado Kansas, only to be whisked back to Oz to try to save her old friends the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man and Glinda from a devious new villain, the Jester. Wiser the owl, Marshal Mallow, China Princess and Tugg the tugboat join Dorothy on her latest magical journey through the colorful landscape of Oz to restore order and happiness to Emerald City.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril
1 / 10
- Voice acting was fairly decent; except for Bernadette Peters, who was just terrible in her role as Glinda
- Animation is OKAY at best, but it's hardly that impressive considering what it could've been.
- The contemporary modern setting of Kansas feels very out of place for a story that's supposed to act as a sequel to the 1939 classic film
- The story is filled with cliches and it's poorly set up.
- The romance between Marshal Mallow and Princess China feels forced, and detracts from most of the story
- Songs are very generic, and forgettable.
- Imagery during songs is bland and boring
- Bernadette Peters' voice acting is terrible
- Iconic characters are reduced to stereotypes, and one dimensional mary sue type characters (i.e. Dorothy)
- New characters are boring, and serve little purpose to the story
- Darker settings don't match up with the lighter tone of the movie
- Oz settings are fairly generic, and lacks any kind of real imagination behind them from an artistic standpoint.
- All the jokes are hit or miss, and sadly...most of them are misses...
Arguably the most unimaginative Oz movie that I've ever freaking seen....
As most of my readers know, I've been hellbent on reviewing every Oz movie ever made, since "Oz: The Great and Powerful" was first announced back in 2012. Although I still have a long way to go, I have to say that "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" is probably the most uninspired Oz movie that I've ever seen. Take in mind, that's saying a lot considering that I've already reviewed quite a significant number of Oz related movies.
The film is said to be based on Roger S. Baum's book, "Dorothy of Oz", but the movie is set up to act like a direct sequel to the original 1939 classic. Dorothy wakes up after her adventure through Oz, to find out her entire hometown has been destroyed by the same devastating tornado that whisked her away to Oz to begin with.
Enter some greedy real estate appraiser (voiced by Martin Short), who condemns all the houses in Dorothy's small town of Kansas; including her own farm. What I find interesting about this movie is that unlike the other Oz sequels that portrayed our world, it seems like this story has more of a modern contemporary setting. Meaning instead of seeing a film that would take place in the early 1900's like most of the other Oz adaptations in the past, it seems like this one chooses to retell the story in a modern contemporary setting.
Not a bad idea per say, but it's just a rather odd choice considering it makes the movie seem a bit out of place. Throughout the film, "The Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" tries to play itself like it's a quasi sequel to the 1939 movie, but the contemporary setting kind of ruin it. In Disney's "Return to Oz", it may not have been a true sequel to the original 1939 classic, but the setting for the story helped make the movie feel like it took place within the same era; hence making the possibility that it could be a continuation of the story all the more believable.
Whereas this movie, the contemporary settings don't work at all, and it kind of makes you wonder why the hell the filmmakers behind this movie went with this choice. To be honest, I think this modernized contemporary setting would've worked better if this had been a remake rather than a continuation to the classic story. If it had been a remake, then it would've been a lot more forgivable. However, since "Legends of Oz" plays itself out like a continuation of the "Wizard of Oz", it feels a bit disjointed to feel like a true continuation of the story.
However, this is just a minor nitpick, but it's definitely worth pointing out. To get back to the story, Jester (Martin Short) has taken over the land of Oz, since Dorothy (Lea Michele) and the Wizard left. Apparently, the Wicked Witch of the West had a little brother that she used to love to torment. Casting a curse on him ages ago, to where he can never remove his court jester costume. And even if he tries to, another one will pop up on his body. However, when his sister is killed by Dorothy, he steals her broomstick and uses a mysterious orb to control it's power. The mysterious orb not only magnifies the broom's powers, but it allows him to become arguably one of the biggest threats that Oz has ever known. Hell, he even managed to turn Glinda the good witch into an actual wooden puppet.
Also keep in mind, time in Oz travels much faster than it does in our world. At least, that's how it's explained in the film. Meaning that even though it's literally only been one day since Dorothy's first adventure in Oz, but for the land of Oz itself? It's been over a few years for them. However, the scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd) desperately seeks Dorothy's help, when the Jester tries to take over the Emerald City; thus he uses a special rainbow beam that he invented to zap Dorothy back to the land of Oz.
Dorothy must now venture back to the Emerald City, so she can save her friends. Along the way, she meets a colorful cast of new characters that help her out. One of them is an overweight owl named Wiser (Oliver Platt), who tends to finish other people's sentences, and he can't fly. And if you think that sounds annoying, then don't worry. He doesn't have too many speaking lines....thank god...
After she meets Wiser, they journey through a land made entirely out of candy. The Jester desperately wanting to get rid of Dorothy somehow manages to trick them into eating the candy around the village; even though it's forbidden. Needless to say, they're arrested by the self righteous candy officer named Marshal Mallow, who happens to be a talking marshmallow man. He takes them to court where they're automatically found guilty by a jury of their peeps, as in the actual candy peeps that you eat around Easter... I guess that was the film's attempt at humor, but like most of the jokes in this movie, they're all pretty much hit or miss.
Anyway, the judge eventually finds out that it's the legendary Dorothy that killed the wicked witch, so he basically dismisses the charges against her. Gee, don't you just love how hypocritical the legal system can be sometimes? But with Marshal Mallow being the uber self righteous prick that he is, he persists that only his commanding has the authority to dismiss Dorothy's charges; hence he joins them on their quest because his commanding officer just happens to be located at the Emerald City.
As they follow the yellow brick road, they're stopped by the china kingdom gates. In order for them to get to the Emerald City, they'll need to pass through the China kingdom, but the princess is only allowing suitors to pass through. Therefore, Dorothy pushes Marshal Mallow to pretend to be one of her suitors.
When we meet Princess China, she comes off as being a very shallow girl who only admires glorified perfection. Turning down various suitors, who possess even a hint of a fracture on them, as she refuses to take anyone who isn't perfect. Without giving away too much, the two end up falling in love over time, as Princess China joins Dorothy on her quest.
The love story between Marshal Mallow and Princess China seems a bit forced if I'm to be honest. There's hardly any real build up to it, and all it takes to win her heart is Marshal Mallow sings a few songs to her. Granted, I'm sure saving her life a couple of times might've helped as well, but the thing is both their characters are so bland that it's hard to really even care about either of them.
Not to mention it doesn't help that very little screen time is spent developing their relationship; outside of a couple of scenes. Plus, they established Princess China as being this shallow person that only appreciates perfection, when we first meet her, but it never goes anywhere with that plot point. I'm guessing the filmmakers set that up because they wanted us to see a transition with her character later on, but it never happens.
Don't get me wrong, it's not the worst love story that I've ever seen. However, it comes off as fairly mediocre because both the love interests don't have any kind of likable personality, and neither of them are developed all that well for the viewer to really care about either of them. But, I digress.
Along their journey, they meet a talking tree named Tugg (Patrick Stewart), who agrees to become a boat, so they can sail to the Emerald City, after they find out that the yellow brick road reaches a dead end. Anyway, that's pretty much all you really need to know about the story without giving away too much.
Like most children's movies, this one is fairly predictable. But it's like the old saying goes, sometimes it's more about the journey than anything else. Hell, "The Lego Movie" was predictable, but it was still a great movie, so you never know. Sadly, this is probably the most uninspired Oz film that I've ever seen.
While the character designs and Oz settings aren't bad per say, they just lack the imagination that you'd expect from one of the Oz stories. In the past films, Oz was always portrayed as being this lively colorful world that existed outside our own. (Not counting "The Wiz" of course) However, in this one new version, most of the imagery of Oz looks fairly generic, dark, and kind of boring. Granted, "Return to Oz" was a darker take on the classic story, but it still had a lot of interesting visual concepts. Whereas this one, the settings are darker, but it really doesn't serve that much of a purpose other than to .make the colorful world of Oz less whimsical because the tone doesn't match the dark settings at all.
Take the song sequences for example. Whenever the characters sing to each other, there's hardly anything interesting to look at. The characters predominantly stand in place, while singing. Or, they'll have some boring transition scene (i.e. reconstruction of Dorothy's town, or turning Tugg into a boat), where hardly anything happens that one could call visually impressive. It's sad considering that in most of today's animated movies, we know they're capable of doing so much more.
In "The Lego Movie" for example. They had a song sequence for "Everything is Awesome!", and you have to admit the visuals that went along with that song were fairly impressive. The animation itself had sort of a stop motion and CGI hybrid look to it that made it feel very original. Hence, when you saw the characters dancing around while singing that song, it was became that much more of a treat to watch. In Disney's "Frozen", the wide angled shots and rotating cinematography, along with the impressive CGI animation of Elsa's powers, really helped make the song "Let it go" a visual masterpiece to watch on the big screen.
Whereas "Legends of Oz", there's hardly anything that's visually going on that makes any of their songs impressive to watch. Not to mention, it doesn't help when the songs have generic lyrics that are fairly forgettable, and lack any kind of catchy melody to it.
As for the voice acting, I thought everyone played their parts rather well. Although Bernadette Peters sounds rather bland in her performance, as she plays Glinda the good witch.
Another thing that bothers me is that the characters aren't interesting either. The villain is nothing more than a one note con man, who lusts for power. It's hardly ever explained how he managed to possess the orb that would allow him to harness his sister's powers. Let alone how he even came into possession of his sister's broom to begin with.
The scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion are all reduced to stereotypes of what they're allegedly supposed to be. Scarecrow is simply the smart guy. Tin Man is nothing more than the emotionally unstable one, and the Lion is the generic tough guy of the group. It's almost like the movie sucks away all the charm, and unique personalities these characters once had. Plus, Dorothy is portrayed as being a Mary f**king sue that it's almost kind of insulting to watch.
This is another odd thing that puzzles me though. Since the movie sets itself up to be a continuation of the 1939 film, then why would Dorothy suddenly go from being a frightened young girl in Oz one day...to being a self righteous Mary Sue, who's ready to take charge the next? It makes zero sense from a character standpoint, and it feels a bit out of place. It's almost like they're not even the same damn character. I mean I could buy it if the story had taken place like four years later, after she was in Oz. By that point, you could argue that she's changed a lot, since her first visit there (ala Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" style). However, since it's literally the next freaking day for her, it makes zero sense why she would have that much of a drastic character change.
While I'll admit that Martin Short tries his best, he's not really given a whole lot to work with here, as his character wasn't written well.
Overall, "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" is arguably one of the worst Oz movies that I've ever seen. The story is half hazardly set up. The characters aren't portrayed well. Most of the jokes are hit or miss. The songs are fairly generic and forgettable. And, it's basically just a mediocre animated film set up to cash in on a well known franchise.
If you want my advice, then I'd highly recommend checking out Disney's "Return to Oz" if you're that interested in seeing a sequel to the classic "Wizard of Oz" story arc. However, when it comes to this mediocre film, then I'd avoid it like the plague; unless you're just that big of an Oz fan to check it out anyway.
The Wizard of Oz lost character (Warning: Contains Adult Language. Parental discretion is advised)
© 2014 Steven Escareno