Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Movie Review: Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
Directed by: Will Finn & Dan St. Pierre.
Written by: Adam Balsam & Randi Barnes based on the novel by Roger S. Baum.
Starring: Lea Michele (Dorothy), Dan Aykroyd (Scarecrow), James Belushi (Lion), Kelsey Grammer (Tin Man), Martin Short (The Appraiser / The Jester), Bernadette Peters (Glinda), Oliver Platt (Wiser), Hugh Dancy (Marshal Mallow), Megan Hilty (China Princess / Queen Mouse), Patrick Stewart (Tugg).

I would think that if I were the rights holder to The Wizard of Oz and all of its characters, I would take more care in how those characters and stories are used in the movies. For all of its many, many flaws, last year’s Oz: The Great and Powerful directed by Sam Raimi at least seemed like it was an honest effort to try and recreate some of the magic of the now 75 year old classic film – it just failed miserably. But at least it tried. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is a lazy animated film in every way – the animation is lazy, and doesn’t look as good as most Saturday morning cartoon shows, let alone feature films. The screenplay is lazy, bringing back many of the characters from the first film, but not giving them anything interesting to say or do – let alone the new characters which are perhaps even more tiresome. You would think with all the books written about Oz – 14 by original writer L. Frank Baum, dozens by other writers, that you could find a decent somewhere to adapt. This one is based on a book by Baum’s grandson – Roger S. Baum – although I understand it is only loosely based on that book. Nevertheless, with characters this iconic, a world as inventive and wonderful as Oz, they still should have come up with something better than this – which strikes me as the type of movie that should have went straight to DVD and wound up in bargain bins at Wal-Mart inside of six months. That’s where the movie is headed anyway, if the horrible box office results are any indication.

The movie takes place years after the events in the original film – at least in terms of Oz time. In Kansas time, it’s the next day, when Dorothy awakens to discover her house where she lives with her Uncle and Aunt is practically destroyed – as is much of her hometown. An apparent insurance appraiser shows up and tells them they must vacate by sundown. Dorothy (voiced by Lea Michelle) doesn’t have much time to do anything but sing a forgettable song (written by Bryan Adams) before she’s summoned back to Oz – via Rainbow – by the Scarecrow (now a genius) alongside the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. An evil Jester (Martin Short) has taken over Oz and imprisoned its leaders (after making them puppets). He doesn’t seem to have an ultimate goal other than the rule Oz alongside his Flying Monkeys. Only the famous witch slayer – Dorothy Gale – can stop him.

What follows is much the same as the first movie, minus the magic. Dorothy teams up with a fat, incessantly chattering Owl named Wiser (Oliver Platt) – and eventually a soldier made out of marshmallow – named Marshall Mallow (Hugh Dancy) and a China Princess (Megan Hilty) as they have to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City in order to confront the Jester – who is constantly trying to thwart their plans – and save Oz.

The movie lacks pretty much everything that made the original Oz such a special and beloved movie. The songs are all forgettable at best – annoying at worst. The animation is cheaply done. The dialogue is poorly written. The voice actors, I think, do as good as job as they can what they have to work with – although I found Patrick Stewart as Tugg, an old tree turned into a talking boat – to be a distraction, perhaps because he’s guest starred on Family Guy and American Dad so much, that I kept expecting him to say something blatantly offensive, like he does on the later all the time.

I took my two and half year old to see the movie – she takes after her old man and loves going to the movies (if for no other reason than it means she gets popcorn). She seemed to enjoy the film for the most part – she got caught up in it, and was, at times, I think slightly scared by it (no nightmares though). She’s not the most discerning viewer however – she watches Bubble Guppies and Sofia the First non-stop.

But I think that’s about the level that Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is aimed at. I cannot imagine kids much older than my daughter being swept up into the movie’s stories or visuals. At best, it will distract them – at worst, it will likely bore them. I was bored for sure. Animated movies have set a certain standard over the years – not all of them are good – some are downright headache inducing with non-stop noise and bright colors – but at least they seem to be trying. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return doesn’t seem to be trying. It has died the quick death at the box office it deserves.

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