Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
dir Will Finn, Dan St Pierre
scr Adam Balsam, Randi Barnes
prd Bonne Radford, Roland Carroll, Ryan Carroll
with Lea Michele, Hugh Dancy, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer, James Belushi, Megan Hilty, Patrick Stewart, Oliver Platt, Bernadette Peters, Brian Blessed, Douglas Hodge
release US 9.May.14, UK 23.May.14
13/US Prana 1h30
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Oz needs your help: Dorothy, Glinda and the gang

michele dancy short
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return Based on the novel Dorothy of Oz by Roger S Baum (great-grandson of L Frank), this animated film has a strong plot and characters that hold our attention, even if the sub-standard animation continually throws us out of the story. Plasticky figures and dodgy direction make the movie feel rather clunky, even as the ideas spark our imagination.

It's only the next morning when Dorothy (voiced by Michele) is summoned back to Oz by a panicky Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion (Aykroyd, Grammer and Belushi), as the crazed Jester (Short) kidnaps good witch Glinda (Peters) and plunges Oz into his reign of mad terror. Making her way across the countryside to Emerald City, Dorothy teams up with Wiser the owl (Platt), Marshal Mallow (Dancy), the China Princess (Hilty) and the ancient tree Tugg (Stewart) before taking on the Jester and his army of flying monkeys.

The script doesn't bother to explain why Jester is so determined to destroy everything: he's just evil, and that's what bad guys do. And this simplistic approach undermines everything about the story, extending to the cliched design and under-developed imagery. So none of the characters feel like they have weight, either physically or dramatically. The animation is disturbingly bad: not only are the characters painfully skinny, but they seem disconnected from each other on-screen.

So it's a good thing that the A-list voice actors put some attitude into the blunt dialog. Throwaway moments help add texture, as do some rather outrageous explosive scenes, which especially give Short a chance to chomp merrily on the scenery. All of the cast members have superb singing voices as well, although only two of the songs are even remotely memorable.

Intriguingly, the story requires Oz to look broken and battered, so the movie never goes for that sunny, too-cheery design we're used to, instead concentrating on dangers and darkness. This makes lands like Candy County or China County a lot edgier than we expect, and removes the sheen from Emerald City. With a more detailed animation approach to the characters themselves, the film would have had a shot at being a classic. But it looks so inferior to Hollywood, Japanese and even European animation that it'll only work its magic on the very young.

cert pg themes, violence 11.Mar.14

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