Following on from the classic tale The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Signature Entertainment have brought to life a feature-length musical animated adventure that gets off to a shaky start, but ultimately won this reviewer over. Want to know what happened after Dorothy Gale returned to Kansas? You’ll find out in Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.
Taking place after the events of the magical tale we’ve all grown to love, Dorothy (Lea Michele) wakes up to a Kansas devastated by the tornado that transported her to the Land of Oz. But before she can get settled in, she is whisked back again by her three friends: The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. For what purpose? Why, to save the Land of Oz from an evil plot, of course.
Meet The Jester (Martin Short), the devious brother of the Wicked Witch of the West, who is turning Dorothy’s friends, including Glinda the Good Witch (Bernadette Peters), into puppets. With the help of her new friends, Wiser the Owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow, China Doll Princess and Tugg the Treeboat (Patrick Stewart), Dorothy sets off on an adventure to restore happiness and order to the Emerald City.
Entertaining as the film turned out to be, I had my reservations in the first ten minutes of the screening. The opening is a little shaky, with an appropriately frazzled Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion running from their latest foe into the Emerald City’s control room, intent on calling Dorothy back to Oz to help them out. The interaction between the three characters felt forced and my concerns were heightened further when we cut to Dorothy back in Kansas after the tornado who has discovered the entire town is about to lose their homes due to the machinations of a suspicious ‘government agent’. It seemed a little forced and had me rolling my eyes until finally Dorothy is picked up by a rainbow (yes, you read that right) controlled by the Scarecrow. Back in Oz her three friends explain that everything’s gone to hell again and they’re going to need another save from the teenage girl who defeated a Wicked Witch with a bucket of water.
We meet the Jester, then Glinda is turned into a defenceless puppet who shall not be turning into a real girl any time soon and finally, the adventure begins. Dorothy wanders in search of the Emerald City once again, makes some new friends along the way. Friends who, I have to admit, I did grow fond of in this sweet animation. I particularly loved Marshal Mallow (portrayed dapperly by Hugh Dancy) and Wiser the Owl who is too big to fly and tends to talk too much. Megan Hilty‘s portrayal of the self-obsessed China Doll Princess is also entertaining.
Featuring songs by the Academy Award nominated singer/songwriter Bryan Adams, the songs were always going to be a focal area for attention. And with talents like Glee’s Lea Michele (she starred in Les Miserables and Spring Awakening on Broadway) and Megan Hilty (played Glinda in the musical Wicked) lending their voices to Dorothy and China Doll Princess respectively, the soundtrack is a fitting extension of the story that never overshadows the plot.
Co-directed by Will Finn (Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid) and Daniel St. Pierre (The Lion King, Shark Tale, Tarzan), Legends of Oz is certain to be an animated classic in keeping with the pair’s glowing resume, right? Well, no, don’t go in expecting a masterpiece. What you will get is a sweet and magical tale that is perfect for its target audience and may even hold the attention of the parents taking their kids along to see it.
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return will play in Vue Cinemas nationwide exclusively from 23rd May 2014.