Nothing legendary about this trip to ‘Oz’

The animation is good, but forgettable tunes, plot drag down sequel

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceMay 9, 2014 

The Jester (voiced by Martin Short) has Oz under his thumb.

CLARIUS ENTERTAINMENT

“Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” is a harmless but almost charmless adaptation of a book by L. Frank Baum’s grandson. It’s a derivative hash of grandpa’s story, set in the present day, given forgettable new tunes by pop songsmiths such as Bryan Adams that are sung by the likes of Lea Michele, Martin Short, Hugh Dancy and Megan Hilty of TV’s “Smash.”

And it’s in 3-D, of course.

This work, animated at Prana in India, has decent production design – a dark, abandoned Emerald City, a shiny, porcelain sheen in Oz’s “Dainty China Country” and luscious-looking 3-D sweets in Candy County.

And the animated characters are beautifully rendered, even if their faces don’t have the expression that Pixar, Blue Sky, Disney and Sony have managed in their recent films.

Dorothy (Michele), Toto, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry survive a tornado that trashes their corner of Kansas. An unscrupulous real estate hustler (Martin Short) is ready to buy out the whole shattered town. But before Dorothy can stop this foreclosure fraud, a rainbow snatches her and drags her and her little dog back to Oz.

Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd) has smartly summoned her to save the land, which is under the thumb of The Jester (Short again), the evil brother of the Wicked Witch of the West. And brother carries a grudge.

Dorothy teams up with Wiser, a chatterbox owl (Oliver Platt); a candy soldier, Marshal Mallow (Dancy); and the haughty China Princess (Hilty) and sets off down the ruined Yellow Brick Road to save her old friends.

The returning characters – the emotionally mercurial Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer, not bad), gutsy Lion (Jim Belushi) and trilling Glinda the Good Witch (Bernadette Peters, perfectly cast) – have almost nothing to do. They’re just puppets of The Jester.

“No good can come from the reign of a fool,” Glinda trills, one last act of defiance before Jester sics his flying monkeys on the legendary witch-killer from Kansas.

The singing is competent, and rocker Adams’ contribution, a build-a-boat-with-beavers tune, “Let’s Work,” bounces along. “When the World” is Michele’s “Over the Rainbow” moment. But not one song will stick with you past the closing credits.

LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN

H H 1/2 I I

Cast: Voices of Lea Michele, Martin Short, Hugh Dancy, Oliver Platt, Bernadette Peters, Megan Hilty, Dan Aykroyd, Patrick Stewart, Jim Belushi

Directors: Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre

Running time: 1:28

Rated: PG; some scary images and mild peril

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