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Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return – Movie Review

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Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

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With the multitude of Wizard of Oz books written by L. Frank Baum, there’s a wealth of material for filmmakers to draw from. Throw in the vast possibilities of animation and there’s no limit to the amount of imagination a talented group of artists can put on the screen. So it’s disappointing for an animated “continuation” of the story to be so lifeless and worst of all, annoying. This is obviously catering to a very young audience and not the all-ages crowd that Pixar and Blue Sky are able to draw in, but that’s no excuse for a film that grates on the nerves almost every minute it’s playing.

This is the kind of animated film where characters are constantly yapping and making bad jokes, without letting a quiet moment sink in once in a while. Despite bringing back some of the characters we have known and liked from Baum’s books and the classic Judy Garland musical, they’re given little personality and they are not the least bit endearing. Of the new set of character, the evil Jester is the most obnoxious. Martin Short is a talented comedian and certainly gives the role his all, but the choppy animation and the way he screams every line makes him all the more aggravating. He doesn’t come off as particularly threatening and certainly won’t give children nightmares like Margaret Hamilton’s green-skinned witch or the Wheelers from Return to Oz. Placing second in the “most annoying character” category is Wiser the Owl, who is saddled with the film’s worst jokes and proves mostly useless in the grand scheme of things. There’s the old saying that you shouldn’t make a movie featuring a character you wouldn’t spend a bus ride with and Legends of Oz is filled with them. The only voice actor and character who proves somewhat fun is Bernadette Peters as Glenda the Good Witch, but she is mostly pushed to the side through most of the movie.

The movie’s subpar animation is particularly disappointing, considering the credits are filled with artists who previously honed their skills at Disney and DreamWorks. The most appealing elements are found in the backgrounds, which are striking and nicely designed, owing to co-director Dan St Pierre’s experience as a production designer on films like Tarzan. The character animation is surprisingly non-expressive as the studio, which has mostly worked on direct-to-video titles in the past, likely didn’t have the appropriate budget and software to work with. This is surprising, since the other co-director on Legends of Oz is Will Finn, who supervised such fluidly animated characters as Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and Iago in Aladdin. With computer animation getting more advanced and borrowing even more inspiration from classical hand-drawn animation than ever before, Legends of Oz is visually a step-back. Maybe watched on a television set, this is somewhat acceptable, but the problems with the animation are magnified when seen on a big screen in (mostly non-existent) 3D.

The lack of much imagination is equally disappointing, considering this is set in the Magical Land of Oz and there are so many books to pick and choose elements from. A town made entirely from china and porcelain is a little interesting, but the candy land feels like a mix of similar and more inventive worlds featured in Wreck-It Ralph and Adventure Time. After a while, Oz even starts to look like any generic fantasy land and the storyline itself is so dull, they could have set it anywhere halfway magical. The final battle between the heroes and villains is somewhat entertaining with the directors utilising a fun Rube Goldberg-like devise at one point, but it’s too little too late. Adding insult to injury is the soundtrack by Bryan Adams and an assortment of other songwriters. In addition to not developing the story, as musicals should, they are forgettable and cloying tripe that even the likes of Barney the Dinosaur would turn down. “Over the Rainbow” is still remembered seventy-five years later, but few people will walk out of Legends of Oz humming any of its tunes.

Back in 1985, Disney released a Walter Murch-directed semi-sequel to The Wizard of Oz titled Return to Oz. It was imaginative, fun, visually spectacular, memorable and even scary (those rollerblading Wheelers were instant nightmare fuel for my younger self). Unfortunately, none of those adjectives describe Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return. More apt would be annoying, cloying, forgettable, dull and eye-rolling. This is the sort of movie that children will ask their parent to take them to see based on name recognition and advertising, only to revisit it many years later, see it doesn’t hold up and apologise for making them sit through it.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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