Film review: Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (U, 88 MINS)

Legends Of Oz: Dorthy's Return. Pictured: Marshall Mallow (voiced by Hugh Dancy), China Princess (voiced by Megan Hilty), Scarecrow (voiced by Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), Dorothy (voiced by Lea Michelle), Lion (voiced by Jim Belushi), Wiser (voiced by Oliver Platt) and Glinda (voiced by Bernadette Peters)

Legends Of Oz: Dorthy's Return. Pictured: Marshall Mallow (voiced by Hugh Dancy), China Princess (voiced by Megan Hilty), Scarecrow (voiced by Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), Dorothy (voiced by Lea Michelle), Lion (voiced by Jim Belushi), Wiser (voiced by Oliver Platt) and Glinda (voiced by Bernadette Peters)

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No return to Oz, there’s no place like the original

At the end of the classic 1939 musical The Wizard Of Oz, based on a novel by L Frank Baum, Dorothy Gale clicks the heels of her ruby slippers three times and chants, “There’s no place like home”, in order to return to sepia-toned Kansas.

At the time, cinema audiences didn’t fall completely under the spell of Victor Fleming’s ambitious and costly fantasy but decades of television repeats have elevated the adventures of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion in our affections.

A jolly jaunt up the Yellow Brick Road has become an annual ritual for many families, especially at Christmas, when grown men choke back tears of happiness as Judy Garland trills the Oscar-winning song Over The Rainbow.

Various spin-off TV series and films, and adaptations of Baum’s myriad sequels to The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, have failed to recapture the magic and sense of wonder of Fleming’s version.

Legends Of Oz: Dorothy’s Return joins that far from illustrious list.

Co-directed by Will Finn and Daniel St Pierre, this computer-animated musical is a direct sequel to the 1939 film, returning the plucky heroine and her pooch Toto to the enchanted realm in order to thwart a megalomaniacal new villain.

Dorothy Gale (voiced by Lea Michele) wakes in Kansas.

A giant tornado has devastated the local community and Aunt Em (Tacey Adams) and Uncle Henry (Michael Krawic) are reluctantly preparing to move on rather than rebuild.

Back in Oz, where time unfolds much quicker than in our world, The Jester (Martin Short), devious brother of the Wicked Witch of the West, is upholding villainous family values by attempting to enslave the entire kingdom.

Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and Cowardly Lion (Jim Belushi) summon Dorothy back to Oz using a rainbow mover in order to spearhead a rebellion.

The heroine journeys towards the Emerald City in the company of new friends including Wiser The Owl (Oliver Platt), Tugg the Treeboat (Patrick Stewart), dashing soldier Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy) and the China Doll Princess (Megan Hilty), who takes one look at Dorothy and quips, “So this is the little girl who vanquishes witches? I thought she’d be taller.”

Legends Of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is neither fun-filled nor magical, punctuating the heroine’s odyssey with songs composed by Academy Award nominated singer/songwriter Bryan Adams, which run the gamut of insipid empowerment ballads and up-tempo calls to arms.

Michele is a chirpy yet bland central character and supporting vocal performances are similarly forgettable.

Directors Finn and St Pierre competently bolt together action sequences and musical numbers but there’s no discernible brio or imagination.

Animation harks from a bygone era when humans were doll-like figures with a strange sheen and large eyes.

There’s still no place like the 1939 film.

Animation/Children/Musical/Adventure. Featuring the voices of Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer, Jim Belushi, Bernadette Peters, Martin Short, Hugh Dancy, Patrick Stewart, Megan Hilty, Oliver Platt, Tacey Adams, Michael Krawic. Directors: Will Finn, Daniel St Pierre.