Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return

Posted by Joel Copling on May 9, 2014

There is no compelling rationale given within Adam Balsam and Randy Barnes' thin screenplay for or by Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre's anonymous co-direction of "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" that this utter non-entity (an adaptation of Roger S. Baum's book series) shouldn't have been an effort that went straight-to-video. After all, it has been in release limbo since at least 2011 (when footage of it was shown at the San Diego Comic Con) and features cheap, shoddy computer animation that looks like it was produced just before the advent of the media with 1995's "Toy Story." This is not to mention the creepy undertones involving its central antagonist and a beyond-unsettling subplot involving the total dismemberment of a prominent character.

Let us cover those bases first. The villain in this case is perhaps simultaneously the film's best element (Otherwise, the songs are rather surprisingly infectious) and its deal-breaker. For the Jester, as voiced by a welcome Martin Short, is a creep that likes to fashion his victims into marionettes and tell them what to do so as to entertain himself. I suppose that's no surprise, given that his title is "The Jester," and Short culls some real moments of menace out of him, but it warrants noting that few kid-movie villains are as off-putting as he is, especially when, in the enormously truncated third act, he bares uncanny resemblance to the late Heath Ledger's Joker from 2008's "The Dark Knight." The other base I must cover is that, for a portion of the movie, the China Princess (voice of Megan Hilty), romantic interest of the well-meaning but dull Marshal Mallow (voice of Hugh Dancy), is literally in pieces, and her jaggedly decapitated head and right shoulder is not exactly a charming sight for the kiddos.

Those and the aforementioned level of animation might be the negative aspects of "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return," but they also happen to be the only things worth noting. Otherwise, it's inconsequential to know that Dorothy herself (voice of Lea Michele) must, for the second time, save Emerald City (In what clearly is meant to be a clever bit of logic, it's only the next day from the events of 1939's "The Wizard of Oz," which would seem an irritating obligation for her, one would assume) with the help of Marshal Mallow, the Scarecrow (voice of Dan Aykroyd), the no-longer-cowardly Lion (voice of James Belushi), the Tin Man (voice of Kelsey Grammer), and a few, peripheral others, simply because this sort of formula should no longer be of any surprise or import. There's no reason given to care; there's no motivation to try in the first place.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of Lea Michele (Dorothy), Dan Aykroyd (Scarecrow), James Belushi (Lion), Kelsey Grammer (Tin Man), Martin Short (The Jester/The Appraiser), Bernadette Peters (Glinda), Megan Hilty (China Princess/Queen Mouse), Oliver Platt (Wiser), Hugh Dancy (Marshal Mallow), Patrick Stewart (Tugg), Michael Krawic (Uncle Henry), Tacey Adams (Aunt Em), Debi Derryberry (Stenographer), Tom Kenny (China Suitor).

Directed by Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre and written by Adam Balsam and Randy Barnes, based on the books by Roger S. Baum.

Rated PG (scary images, mild peril).

88 minutes.

Released on May 9, 2014.