Hey everyone! Who’s ready for another Oz-based movie! No, no, don’t worry, James Franco isn’t involved this time. Did I mention this one is animated? And a musical? AND in 3D?! What? You’re still not ready? Too bad!
Based on the 1989 book Dorothy of Oz by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum’s great grandson Roger S. Baum, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return begins in Kansas shortly after that devastating tornado. Dorothy’s home is in pieces and a shady building inspector has informed the Gales that they must evacuate. Dorothy (Lea Michele) is determined to stay and insists that they can rebuild.
While walking through her now-in-shambles town, Dorothy spots a rainbow which she soon finds herself (and Toto of course) inside of. Turns out her old friends Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer), and (don’t call him cowardly anymore) Lion (James Belushi) have summoned her back to a similarly demolished Oz to help them defeat a new villain, The Jester (Martin Short), brother of the Wicked Witch of West. Throughout her journey, Dorothy makes some new yellow brick road companions.
The big draw for this one, besides the obvious nostalgia, is the big-name voice talent. Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, Oliver Platt, Patrick Stewart (who makes everything better), Megan Hilty (though not as Glinda, her Wicked character), Bernadette Peters (who is Glinda, but only has about three lines ), Kelsey Grammer, and Hugh Dancy are all game (with the exception of Peters… is she feeling alright?) and do their best to bring their computer-generated counterparts to life, but it’s Martin Short who steals the movie.
As though there was ever any doubt there.
I’ll admit I found the story cute and it thankfully moves along quickly. It follows the structure of the beloved 1939 film with Dorothy on a quest, facing obstacles and helped by some friends she makes along the way. The new characters are likable and fun. Had this movie been in better hands, perhaps even done live-action instead, it could have been a decent sequel.
This thing reportedly had a budget of $70 million dollars. SEVENTY MILLION. Just think about how much money that is for a minute. I spent much of my 88 minutes in the theater wondering how much of that went into the animation. Did any of it go into the animation? Because… oh boy. Now, I wasn’t expecting Pixar quality, but man, the animation in this movie looks like one of those straight-to-DVD knockoffs you’d find in the $5 bargain bin at Walmart, not a theatrical wide-release with well-known actors attached.
The kids will never notice the difference!
The company responsible is Prana Studios in Mumbai, India, which also gave us 2005’s Hoodwinked and 2013’s Planes plus a slew of Tinkerbell movies co-produced with Walt Disney Pictures (so yeah, exactly those straight-to-DVD knockoffs you’d find in the $5 bargain bin at Walmart). It looks very rushed and cheap, and the characters’ movements are awkward. This is especially cringeworthy during musical numbers when they “dance.”
It’s also in 3D, which doesn’t add much and is often dizzying.
So basically, nothing works visually.
Like the animation, the music is pretty lifeless. The songs never go anywhere or move the story along and are forgotten as soon as they’re over. It’s a shame considering the vocal talent involved, because if there was ever a perfect choice for a female lead to belt out a showstopper, it’s certainly Lea Michele.
Your reign is still safe, Adele Dazeem.
What’s surprising is that Bryan Adams, who’s behind one of the most popular (and annoyingly infectious) movie songs of all time, wrote much of the soundtrack.
At one point Dorothy looks around and comments “This isn’t the Oz I remember.” We’re all with you there Lea, I mean Dorothy. It’s not the Oz anyone remembers.
Because I remember Oz like this.
There are several callbacks to the 1939 film which, on one hand, makes for some nice nostalgia and continuity, but on the other reminds the viewer that these are cartoon versions of characters embedded in our minds as live people (and live people in costumes). It’s hard to describe, but it just feels very strange.
Though not as strange as 1985’s Return to Oz, which scarred me for life.
It means well, it’s harmless, and it will keep the kids entertained for just under an hour and a half, but it’s also crap. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you really, really, like The Wizard of Oz.
Wait for the bargain bin, where this will eventually end up.
There’s no place like home.
Take a Drink: whenever you wonder where the $70 million dollars went.
Take a Drink: every time China Princess says something bitchy.
Take a Drink: whenever you see a flying monkey.
Take a Drink: every time the Jester tricks Dorothy and friends.
Take a Drink: for every nod to the original movie.
Chug: through every boring song.