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Review: LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is an unexpectedly amusing, funny, and solidly constructed low-budget animated film that is sneaking its way into theaters.

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return seems to have snuck up on us. Aside from numerous posters in crowded mall areas, I did not see any previews, billboards, or online advertising for this one. Usually, low-budget films that take this sort of advertising approach tend to be the odd ones; it was the way I discovered the awful-but-good Antboy. In a way, I was kind of hoping that this CGI reinterpretation of the Oz myth (based on the books written by L. Frank Baum’s great-grandson, Roger S. Baum) would be equally crazy. At best, I could hope for a cheapie, bonkers film full of enough weird ideas to keep my screwball gland pumping.

Imagine my delight, then, to discover that Legends of Oz is actually a pretty darn good little movie. It’s full of interesting characters, good pacing, good plotting, and a fantastic villain. It is mercifully free of pop culture references (save for one involving marshmallow Peeps), fart jokes, bland kiddie-friendly lecturing, and that insufferable form of frantic pacing that seems to infect most kid films these days. And how nice to find an animated feature that isn’t either over-marketed by Disney gurus, nor outright terrible. In a year that has already been inflicted by The Nut Job and Rio 2, Legends of Oz is a soothing baum. Er, balm. I’ll also say this: I like Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return way better than Sam Raimi’s Oz, The Great and Powerful.

Legends of Oz Scared Scarecrow

Most Oz stories involve quartets of misfits traveling through Oz to the Emerald City, and Legends of Oz is no exception. Dorothy (Lea Michele), having only experienced a single day’s time since her last Oz adventure, is recovering from the tornado. Her house has been condemned, and Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (Billy West and Mike Judge) are contemplating moving away from Kansas. Just when Dorothy is lamenting the loss of her home, a magical rainbow appears out of the sky and teleports her back to Oz to help her old friends Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Lion (Jim Belushi), and Tin Woodman (Kelsey Grammar). Several years have already sped by in Oz, and the entire land has now been taken over by a malicious Jester (Martin Short), who rules with a magic scepter, and who is cursed to never remove his outfit (he removes one Jester outfit, only to be wearing a slightly different one underneath). Martin Short is so spirited in the role of the Jester, he could easily play The Joker in a future Batman iteration. If Zack Snyder is looking for older Jokers for his next superhero flick, I implore that he consider Short.

Fusion TIFF File

Dorothy has to trek to the Emerald City to help her friends. Along the way, she accumulates a talkative fat owl named Wiser (Oliver Platt), a duty-bound marshmallow soldier named Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), a fastidious china doll (Megan Hilty), and an ancient talking tree named Tugg (Patrick Stewart). Bernadette Peters has a small role as Glinda the Good Witch, and Brian Blessed plays Judge Jawbreaker. There are some songs sprinkled throughout, some of which are actually a bit memorable. The end-of-Act-I love song is a highlight (Hugh Dancy can really belt one out), and while a song about working together and being a team (penned by Bryan Adams, no less) sounds like it would be an insufferable experience, it actually plays well enough with the tone of the film.

The funny parts are funny, the adventurous parts are adventurous, and there are even some scary bits to rattle the little ones. The Jester, for instance, has been kidnapping the leaders of Oz and turning them into wooden marionettes. And that, my friends, is supremely creepy. Too few kid films eschew scary, forgetting that little kids actually kinda like being scared. I know I did. It’s the impulse that led me to see Ghostbusters as a wee lad.

It’s certainly not a perfect film; there are some annoying jokes, and the three original Oz characters (Scarecrow, et al) are actually the weakest part, involving the broadest jokes and the most embarrassing dialogue. But for a film that was previously not pinging on anyone’s radars, it was amusing and startling.

Rating: 3.5 Burritos
3.5 burritos

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13 comments

  • The movie brought smiles and laughter to my kids.  Held their attention throughout!  It is geared toward 3 to 9 year olds.  Animation was good!  A shame so much comparison is based on The Wizard of OZ.  This movie is clearly based on the series…Return To Oz.  Critics need to do their research.

  • My 6 year old girl and 3 year old boy have seen it 3 times now in the theaters…and want to see it now in 3D…I suppose its a dang good movie based on the Kiddos Reviews! And I gotta admit, I found myself really liking it too!

  • Ok! First, the Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum & Julie Garland in the Wizard of Oz film is classic & timeless ~ one that’s watched time & again by each generation. The Legends of Oz animated musical film is delightful and charming. It remains to be seen how the kids will react & whether the film stands the test of time. I say that because we [the writer and several of her grand-mother or older gal friends] attended an afternoon show & there were No children watching the film -only about 1 dozen attendees. The gals & I LOVED the animation & melodious musicality of the movie! It will catch on & there should be lots of children seeing it this weekend.

    The music by Bryan Adams, songwriter/composer, pinned for the film is Great — I think the kids will particularly like the song & animation of the Happy song, “Work with Me!” & of course, the journey through Candyland will be loved by the kids.
    The animation process & effects for the characters of Oz (i.e., Tin Man, monkeys) are amazing. I enjoyed listening to the talented singing voice of Lea Michele’s & she really got into the role of Dorothy’s character.

    This grownup Loved/enjoyed the wonderful stellar, talented voices of Megan Hilty & Hugh Dancy, both in their solo performances & as the ‘China Princess & Marshall Mallow’ singing their Beautiful duet song, ‘Even Then’.~ sigh :-)
    Martin Short really shines as the Jester don’t you think; & kudos go to the costume designing for the Jester — Patrick Stewart is also great & appealing to the little ones as Tugg the Tugboat!

    The gals thought the movie was very ‘cute’ & well suited for young children to see — lots of laughs & chuckles made in the journey through candyland — all of them will tell their kids to take their grandchildren to see it.

    Personally (& at my suggestion) we All agreed, over cups of Hot Tea, to give it an A+ on being a positive role model with high marks in educational values to be discussed w/the kids. Some of the values we talked about were: 1) the good Vs evil; the “work with me” attitude in helping one another, 2) a reiteration of helping those in need of a brain(education); of courage, & heart (scarecrow/lion/tin man) & 3) it connects the dots to people in Dorothy’s Kansas; e.g., the Jester & the appraiser abusing governmental powers, et al.

    One reservation perhaps could be for parents to be cautious about their young 3 to 4 YOs seeing the film ~ the mean flying monkeys battle in 3D might be too scary for them.

    Although the Top Box Office attendance stats were not as great as other films at this point (about $3.7M), I do think it will do Very Well, especially in DVD sales for home viewing.

    TOYS: I think the Jester, Toto, Tin Man & Marshall Mallow plush toys will do well; & I believe the Hotest item will be the fashion Singing Dorothy Doll w/cute cowboy boots, et al- especially since she sings the Happy song “Work with Me” from the movie. Like Dorothy, let’s think positive & remember, “There Will Always be a Rainbow when One Needs it Most”

    • Wow Grandma, you have certainly mastered the art of cut and paste. Here is your same review again…Variety, Screenrant…where else is it? I don’t know too many ‘grandmas’ that would LOVE a kids movie so much that they would bother spending their days cutting and pasting the same review along with a shameless plug for the merch. Unless of course they had some sort of financial stake in the movie…hmmm?

  • The only reason why this movie didn’t do well is because there was no one in the hip hop industry to promote it. Rio has Bruno Mars and Rhianna (don’t know how to spell her name) American youth today believes that if it isn’t rap, then it’s crap.