Review: ‘Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return’ can’t even get Depression-era Kansas right

It's the stars of "Wizard of Oz" as you remember them, if you remember them as looking cheap. Credit: Clarius Entertainment
It’s the stars of “Wizard of Oz” as you remember them, if you remember them as looking cheap.
Credit: Clarius Entertainment

‘Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return’
Directors: Will Finn, Dan St. Pierre
Voices of: Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd
Rating: PG
1 Globe

L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” is a major cultural institution, and yet one can count the number of major films it’s spawned on one hand. That’s partly because it’s not Baum’s books but a movie — the 1939 titan — that looms largest in the world’s mind. One, however, can always count on a cheapie adaptation, usually one from small companies. Films like 1971′s “Journey Back to Oz” — with Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli — or “The Witches of Oz” boast cut-rate visuals and affordable casts, and were made only after jumping through a gauntlet of copyright loopholes.

That would seem to explain the so-called “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return,” a DTV-style toon inexplicably slipped into theaters and charging extra for 3-D that largely exists to make the images darker than intended. All the expected Oz elements are here, except for the ones that weren’t able to be obtained legally (like the ruby slippers). The animation looks like cut-scenes from ’90s video games while the hot voice cast includes Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Martin Short, who voices an evil jester. If that wasn’t popular-20-years-ago enough for you, the songs are by Bryan Adams.

There are 14 “Oz” books to choose from, and it’s telling that it goes with one not by Baum, but by Roger S. Baum, the author’s great-grandson. It’s a cheapie cash-in of a cheapie cash-in. Here, Dorothy (voiced by “Glee’’’s 27-year-old Lea Michele) is summoned by a moving rainbow to the alternate universe from which she’s just escaped. Among the terrible friends she collects on her journey are an annoying fat owl (Oliver Platt), an old tree (Patrick Stewart) and a regal marshmallow (Hugh Dancy), gravely overestimating the public’s desire to see puffy foodstuffs made to talk in posh British accents.

She also meets a girl made of china (Megan Hilty), which also happened in last year’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.” That film had its haters, but it had ambition and genuine love for the material and the period, thanks to director Sam Raimi. This is an in-name-only desecration, amusingly pathetic in its attempts to be classier than it is. There are scores of puns; each time you hear the name “Marshal Mallow,” you relish the poetic simplicity of naming a scarecrow character “Scarecrow.” It can’t even get Depression-era Kansas right — Dorothy appears to come from a land where people dress in plaid that came from the Gap, while a skateboard even makes an appearance. That it scored a few actual names — Bernadette Peters is in this, amazingly, as a squeaky-voiced Glinda — gives it the veneer of class, but it was designed to fool kids and their gullible parents, yet make everyone who sees it sad.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…

Style

Cara Delevingne's major fashion faux-pas

Find out why the outfit Cara Delevingne wore to Leonardo DiCaprio's charity gala raised eyebrows.