Magazine article Screen International

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return

Magazine article Screen International

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return

Article excerpt

Dir: Daniel St. Pierre, Will Finn. US. 2014. 92mins

Hitching its wagon in hopeful fashion to any residual goodwill and interest from last spring's $490-plus million surprise hit Oz The Great and Powerful, animated family musical Legends Of Oz: Dorothy's Return spins off a story that loosely picks up after the 1939 classic The Wizard Of Oz. Waves of indifference emanate from this meagerly imagined yarn, adapted from a non-canonical book by Roger Stanton Baum, the great-grandson of originating author L. Frank Baum. Wasting a voice cast populated with recognisable names, this attempt to cash in on nostalgia for its source material evokes more bewilderment and boredom than excitement or wistful reminiscence.

There's little to bond viewers to the characters' quest, the repartee is significantly lacking, and it doesn't much help that Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion spend most of the film partitioned away from the action.

Opening wide Stateside against R-rated comedy Neighbors, Legends Of Oz would seem to have some sort of inroads with family audiences, but dim marketplace awareness for distributor Clarius Entertainment's offering should drop a house on its theatrical box office chances. Ancillary prospects seem consigned chiefly to an audiovisual babysitter for viewers under the age of eight.

Immediately upon waking in post-tornado Kansas, Dorothy Grace (Lea Michele) and her dog Toto are whisked back to Oz on a "rainbow mover" sent by her friends Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and Lion (Jim Belushi). Jester (Martin Short), the scorned brother of the defeated Wicked Witch of the West, is consolidating power in a most unfriendly way, turning all who oppose him into puppets. Dorothy is the only one who can stop him, and so off she goes to the Emerald City, teaming up along the way with a giant, obese owl, Wiser (Oliver Platt), candyman soldier Marshall Mallow (Hugh Dancy) and the imperious China Princess (Megan Hilty).

Baum's children's novel was published in 1989, but its narrative feels like some weird grab-bag collection of Shrek, Hoodwinked and the odd mix of leftover Oz riffs, including flying monkeys. Whether handcuffed by rights issues, a lack of imagination or the dictates of a sprawling list of credited sub-producers that tops out around four dozen, screenwriters Randi Barnes and Adam Balsam deliver nothing that rises above the level of cardboard characterizations from a disposable small screen serial. There's little to bond viewers to the characters' quest, the repartee is significantly lacking, and it doesn't much help that Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion spend most of the film partitioned away from the action. …

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