Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return Movie Review
Despite substandard animation, this brightly coloured sequel has a strong enough sense of both its story and characters to hold the audience's attention. And kids might not mind the quality, as they are re-introduced to classic characters in an all-new adventure based on the book Dorothy of Oz by Roger S Baum (great-grandson of L Frank).
It starts the morning after Dorothy (voiced by Lea Michele) gets back home to Kansas after her iconic adventure. Her panicky friends Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion (Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer and James Belushi) summon her back to Oz, where considerable time has passed while a crazed Jester (Martin Short) kidnaps good witch Glinda (Bernadette Peters) so he and his army of flying monkeys can launch their reign of terror. On her long journey back to Emerald City, Dorothy has a series of adventures with Wiser the owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), the China Princess (Megan Hilty) and the old tree Tugg (Patrick Stewart), who all help her take on the Jester.
Yes, the plot is rather simplistic (the Jester merely seems evil for evil's sake), but the real problem is that the animation is badly under-developed. Characters are painfully thin, with no gravity to them at all, which makes it impossible for them to properly interact visually. Fortunately there are some clever touches to the design work, such as the way everything in Oz looks battered and broken, which adds a badly needed dark edge to the otherwise sunny silliness.
Meanwhile, the voice cast provides plenty of personality, infusing the characters with humour and texture that are lacking in the script. So while the musical numbers are forgettable, even with a cast full of terrific singers like these, there are some deranged moments along the way that add a momentary blast of real life just when it's needed. If only the filmmakers had worked a bit harder to design and animate characters who were more detailed and engaging. Because this lower level of quality will only work on very young audiences.