Making a movie about Dorothy Gale’s next adventure after her legendary fantasy in Oz is a tall order. There may have been movies made about life after Oz, but that doesn’t nullify the large ratio of error for future works. It’s to no surprise that the paltry produced Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return doesn’t come through. The bar is set at an impossible height it cannot reach with its ordinary animation and unrefined songs.
Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre’s flick still could’ve been a fluffy, innocuous time for their young audience though. The imagination can never tap out in L. Frank Baum’s world where inanimate objects can just as quickly be brought to life and dance a jig. Rolling hills littered with thousands of flowers and greenery paint a bright picture of never-ending childlike innocence. It’s part of what audience’s find so endearing about the story.
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is an oddly dreary movie. The scenery is replaced with jagged designs and a dark colour palette. The film begins with Kansas foreclosures post-tornado, death is also randomly mentioned on more than one occasion – usually by an uptight individual threatening one of the good guys – and an alarming fate turning guardians into marionettes is an unnerving sight. This adventure may call on downbeats, but why did Finn and St. Pierre abandon every single thing a faithful audience member could latch onto? Why did they feel the need to push their young demographic away with this tonal bummer?
The filmmakers are loosely adapting Roger Stanton Baum’s Dorothy of Oz, which could explain their relentlessness to stick to the darker source material. But, maybe Dorothy of Oz wasn’t meant for the big screen. Or, at least this vision of it.
It’s an inaccessible movie. Children and adults will share boredom as we trek with Dorothy (voiced by Glee’s Lea Michele) through a shambled Oz to save Emerald City from the maniacal Jester (voiced by Martin Short). To make matters more dangerous, Jester also captures the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow (voiced by Jim Belushi, Kelsey Grammar, and Dan Aykroyd).
Michele seems to be in her element while she belts out poppy tunes. The showtunes diva is probably having a blast channeling her inner Judy Garland. But no matter how hard she tries to breathe life into flabby lyrics about cooperation and “moving on”, the songs don’t stick. Not even Bryan Adams’ behind-the-scenes musical expertise raises the material.
Short is doing exactly what he has to do in order to make Jester a quirky, insane villain – we’ve heard it before. By now, this is Short on autopilot and collecting easy money. Good for him, not so much for us.
Screenwriters Adam Balsam and Randi Barnes’ dumb the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow down, even though the sidekicks have been granted their special rewards of courage, a heart and a brain. The movie makes them out to be fools conducting Three Stooges sort of schtick to no avail.
The film separates Dorothy from her three friends – another buzzkill. Instead, Dorothy makes friends with Wiser the Owl (voiced by an unrecognizable Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (voiced by Hugh Dancy) and the delicate China Princess (voiced by Megan Hilty). Other than looking different and having a glimmer of possibility to hold a bit of resonance, all three newbies lack distinct qualities and their mannerisms could make anyone of any age irritable. Wiser’s mumbling and incessant need to finish everyone’s sentences will make you fly for the door.
That’s the thing with Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return. It’ll tweak your interest and then drive you away. Take the scene where our heroes meet China Princess. The landscape inside the kingdom is nice on the eyes, shiny, and is one of the only instances where the film has credibility. Soon enough, a unmemorable song is sung by characters who are a drag to be around. The movie hits a slower crawl.
I’ve seen lots of bad movies geared towards children. Earlier this year, kids got The Nut Job, a movie made by people who see children as moronic bags of money. To use a film that’s even more independent, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure was an irresponsible flick to shamelessly start a franchise. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return isn’t a film I can toss around with those other two because I didn’t hate it. It may have been an attempt to cash grab through a familiar property, but it’s mediocre enough to not do any crucial damage.
What Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre’s sequel is guilty of, however, is being unapologeticly bleak and unbelievably boring. If this had gone straight to DVD, kids could’ve at least had the benefit of being able to fall asleep on their couch. Falling asleep in a theatre chair isn’t as easy.