Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (2013)

Genres - Children's/Family, Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy, Fairy Tales & Legends, Musical Fantasy  |   Release Date - May 9, 2014 (USA)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Perry Seibert

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return is the kind of animated family movie you'll keep your children away from if you love them. A lazy attempt to cash in on the goodwill audiences still have for the 1939 classic, this sequel has absolutely nothing to recommend about it.

The premise is that the Scarecrow (voiced by Dan Aykroyd), the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer), and the Lion (James Belushi) must bring Dorothy (Glee's Lea Michele) back to Oz in order to save the fantastical land from the Jester (Martin Short), the brother of the Wicked Witch of the West, who is threatening to destroy everything with a magical broomstick.

Using a rainbow-making machine, the trio manage to get their heroine back, but not before they are captured by the Jester. This forces Dorothy to team up with a new batch of strange friends: the militaristic marshmallow man Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), whose name symbolizes how lazy the writing is; Wiser (Oliver Platt), an owl the size of Honey Boo Boo's mother; and Tugg (Patrick Stewart), an ancient, talking tree they fashion into a boat. The motley crew make their way across Oz, and attempt to storm the Jester's castle so they can defeat him and restore order.

Watching the movie, you quickly get the feeling that nobody gave any aspect of the production that much thought. This is most apparent in the songs, which are uniformly horrible and -- thankfully -- instantly forgettable; they're on a par with the dippy tunes you'd hear at a variety show on a below-average cruise line. Nobody is humming any of these songs but Bryan Adams, and that's only because he wrote some of them.

Screenwriters Adam Balsam and Randi Barnes serve up an endless series of tired puns: On trial for eating candy, Dorothy is told that she is entitled to a "jury of her peeps," and the movie cuts to a jury box filled with 12 chick-shaped marshmallow treats. The duo also fail to give Dorothy anything to do other than save Oz; she doesn't even express a desire to go back home.

As for the vocal performances, it's safe to say that nobody stands out. It's obvious the filmmakers didn't let comic geniuses Short and Aykroyd improv anything, nor did they bother to give them any good jokes to say. Lea Michele sings, but you can hear that on Glee for free, and the songs will be better there.

One of the production companies responsible for this absolute failure of imagination is Prana Animation Studios, which made a few of Disney's successful spin-off films about Tinkerbell and her fairy friends. Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return is basically the work of people who specialize in direct-to-DVD movies, and it definitely feels like it.