Sunday, May 11, 2014

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return Review

This is a moment that for a while I never thought would actually come. But it has. Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return has finally made it to theaters. It was either in early in 2011 or 2012 when I was randomly browsing IMDb and stumbled on a new animated Oz movie that was coming out. "Hey that's a cool idea," was my initial thinking. And I've been following it ever since. It was supposed to come out a lot earlier than it did, so my journey in following it became much longer than expected, and there was a point where I thought the movie had been scrapped. Then Oz the Great and Powerful was announced and that movie beat this one to the punch of being the first Oz movie in quite some time. Now I felt bad because I knew that this meant everyone was going to accuse this movie of copying that one, when in fact it was probably the other way around. Then when actual trailers came out, it was apparent that no one was going to give it a shot because they all thought it looked dumb. But not me. I had invested so much time into following this movie that I knew I was going to see it opening weekend regardless. That weekend has come and I was true to my word. I saw the movie. And I am actually rather glad that I did because I actually enjoyed this movie. It's a charming and fun little animated movie that I think is great for family audiences.

Oz is a land that is thick and rich with story. L Frank Baum himself wrote 14 Oz books and that was followed by a plethora of additional books written by various artists. So before you open your mouth to complain about more Oz movies being made, you need to just keep it closed because there is a ton of material that could be used for all kinds of different movies. Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return actually is based off a later book written by L Frank Baum's great grandson Roger S Baum. That book is called Dorothy of Oz, which was actually the initial title of the movie when I discovered this before they decided to switch over to the franchise-confident title of Legends of Oz. The initial tagline of the movie, which was also changed, described the plot very well. "You've waited 70 years to learn what happened the next day." That was changed for multiple reasons, but the point is the story of this movie takes place the day after the classic Wizard of Oz story that you all know from the 1930's movie.

It's only been a day for Dorothy, but time lapse being different in Oz means it's been longer in Oz and Oz is in trouble. With Dorothy killing the two wicked witches, the field has become wide open for the latter witch's brother, the Jester, to take control of Oz. The Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man send a message to Dorothy that Oz is in trouble and transport her back. Before they can reunite, the three of them get kidnapped by the Jester, just like others such as Glinda. So now it is up to Dorothy to save her old friends, as well as all of Oz, from the Jester. Along the way she explores through new lands such as Candy Land and China Land and makes some new friends to tag along with her, which include Wiser the Owl, Marshal Mallow, the China Princess and Tugg the old tree (he lets them turn him into a boat).

First off it's important to know that this definitely has a targeted audience, that being younger kids. This wasn't necessarily meant for adults to flock to. Thus complaints such as poor animation and cheesy dialogue are things that I looked over a bit because I knew that the target audience wouldn't care. My little nieces and nephews are going to comment on the animation style of the movie. That said, I didn't think the animation was that bad. Sure, it wasn't Dreamworks or Pixar level, but it didn't bother me. It was unique and I quickly got used to it. I liked all the characters in the movie. Marshal Mellow, Wiser, the China Princess and Tugg were all charming and adorable. Hugh Dancy voiced Marshal Mellow, Oliver Platt voiced Wiser, Megan Hilty voiced the China Princess and Patrick Stewart voiced Tugg. They were joined by a great main cast of Lea Michelle (Dorothy), Dan Aykroyd (Scarecrow), James Belushi (Lion), Kelsy Grammar (Tin Man), Bernadette Peters (Glinda) and Martin Short (Jester). So this was quite the voice cast. It was also a fun story to follow as Dorothy journeyed through Oz to save her friends.  

Finally, the best part of this movie was what Oz the Great and Powerful completely missed out on. The classic Wizard of Oz was a musical. I can't remember if Oz the Great and Powerful had any musical-type songs with it, but if it did, they were forgettable, because I forgot about them. But Legends of Oz capitalizes on the musical aspect of the original and provides some very memorable songs. If you decide to continue to ignore this movie despite my recommendations, at the very least you should check out the soundtrack of this movie. Not every song was a runaway hit for me, but there were several that were very good and had me singing as I left the theater.

Overall, it was a long journey for this movie to come out and by the early box office numbers it appears that it will be a financial disaster. This really saddens me because it deserves to at least be a minor hit among family audiences. Yes, this is directed mainly towards kids, so if you do have younger kids in your household, I would call this movie a must-see at some point. But I also think that it is one of those kids movies that adults can enjoy as well. You may not walk out of the theater thinking that this is the best thing since the original Wizard of Oz, but you might just surprise yourself by enjoying it. I did. So ignore the critics, ignore the box office numbers that seem to be supporting the critics and give this movie a shot. It deserves your support. I give the movie an 8/10. And yes, I did like this better than last year's Oz the Great and Powerful.

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