RICHARD CROUSE

REVIEW: The Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return

Posted By: Richard Crouse · 5/9/2014 4:35:00 AM

“I smell flying monkeys!”

So says a character in “Legends of Oz,” a new family film that adds a chapter to L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” series.

Where there are flying monkeys you can bet there’ll also be a Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and a Lion (as played by James Belushi he’s no longer cowardly and now suggests tearing his enemies “limb from limb.”) and, of course, witch killer Dorothy (Lea Michele) and her little dog Toto. All make appearances but this time around they’re up against a different foe—an evil Jester (Martin Short).  

The movie begins several Oz years after Dorothy vanquished the Wicked Witch of the West. In her time, however, only hours have passed. When she wakes in her bed in Kansas the tornado from the original story has just laid waste to her town, but before you can say “Well, howdy, Miss Gulch,” the young girl is sucked up by a giant rainbow and transported to the world of Oz. “You guys,” she says, “dragging me into a giant rainbow really scared me!”

Trouble is, things aren’t so wonderful in Oz. The Emerald City is in turmoil at the hands of a power hungry Jester who is turning the citizenry into marionettes. Dorothy, with the help of new friends Wiser the Owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty) and Tugg the Tugboat (Patrick Stewart) must stop the Jester and rescue Scarecrow, the Tin Man and Lion before they are turned into puppets.

There are some good messages for kids in “The Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” about working together—as heard in the clumsily rhymed “out it all together until the job is done, it should be easy, it should be fun”—and the importance of friendship. It’s just too bad they are wrapped up in a film so saccharine it would give the Wicked Witch of the West a sugar rush.

The flying monkeys are still kinda scary but the rest of the movie practically redefines the term “family friendly,” and not in all the best ways. It plays it safe to a fault throughout, smoothing over any edge until there is not much left but some poppy tunes (by Bryan Adams among others) and a story that relies on the goodwill of characters created several generations ago.

“The Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” won’t give Pixar a run for their money and might be best saved for a rainy day rental.  

2 STARS

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