‘Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return’ Review

Published 12 months ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:29 am,

legends oz dorothys return review Legends of Oz: Dorothys Return Review

By the time this film draws to a close, it will have accomplished little more than being a glorified 90-minute distraction for kids.

In Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Dorothy (voice of Lea Michele) wakes up back in Kansas, having only just gotten back from her first trip to somewhere over the rainbow. Unfortunately, Dorothy’s hometown has been left in ruins by the tornado and the local populace has started packing up and moving out – acting on the orders of a suspicious government appraiser (Martin Short), who likewise demands that Dorothy and her family vacate their damaged property as soon as possible.

However, no sooner than Dorothy starts pondering how to solve this dilemma, she finds herself whisked up (literally) and transported back to Oz, where the malevolent Jester (also Short) – brother to the now-deceased Wicked Witch of the West – has launched a hostile takeover of the Emerald City. With her old comrades being either on the run or already captured by the Jester and his newly-acquired army of flying monkeys, Dorothy must attempt to save Oz with the help of some new friends – including, the talkative (and plump) owl Wiser (Oliver Platt), as well as the noble soldier Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy) and the strong-willed China Princess (Megan Hity).

Legends of Oz – based on the book Dorothy of Oz written by L. Frank Baum’s great-grandson, Roger Stanton Baum – presents itself as a 3D animated sequel to the original classic Wizard of Oz movie released in 1939. Unfortunately, in spite of having a talented celebrity-studded voice cast and co-directors Will Finn (Home on the Range) and Dan St. Pierre’s (Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey) giving an admirable effort to redesign the Dorothy character as a more modern female archetype, Legends of Oz ultimately feels like little more than a cheap knockoff of the Wizard of Oz film brand.

legends oz dorothys return lea michele Legends of Oz: Dorothys Return Review

Lea Michele as Dorothy in ‘Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return’

Part of the problem facing Legends of Oz is that such recent animated children’s features as Disney’s Frozen have raised the bar for feminist narratives higher than what this movie even attempts. Taken on its own, the Legends of Oz script by lesser-knowns Adam Balsam and Randi Barnes is still slapdash in its construction, clumsily interweaving forgettable songs – written by Bryan Adams, Jim Dooley, and Jim Vallance – with Dorothy’s half-baked empowerment arc. Likewise, there are a handful of supporting characters who either serve little to no purpose in progressing the story, or are granted little development before their subplots are given an unearned payoff.

Visually, Legends of Oz is colorful, yet cold and unfeeling. In this movie, the bright and shiny backdrops that make up the imaginative world of Oz feel distant and removed apart from the action in the foreground, while the various characters are unexpressive and hollow-eyed. It’s direct-to-DVD quality work, in other words, which makes sense, as the animation was handled by Prana Studios, which also contributed to number of Disney’s Tinkerbell movies and Planes (the latter was originally intended to be a home-video release). As such, there’s little to be gained from watching this film on the big screen in 3D, since the digital camera movement fails at creating an immersive effect, while the CGI imagery never truly pops off the screen.

legends oz dorothys return movie Legends of Oz: Dorothys Return Review

The sloppily-animated character mannerisms stand out all the more because Legends of Oz, as mentioned before, does boast quality voice acting by a noteworthy collection of actors. In addition to the aforementioned names, the roster includes Dan Aykroyd as the Scarecrow, Kelsey Grammer as Tin Man, James Belushi as the (ex-Cowardly) Lion, Bernadette Peters as Glinda, and Patrick Stewart as Tugg the tree-turned tugboat. Unfortunately, in the absence of equally competent animation and writing to match the comparatively nuanced and lively voice performances, the final result feels like little more than a waste of talent, in that respect.

Some younger moviegoers will, no doubt, find more to appreciate about Legends of Oz, as will their parents. However, for most people, by the time this film draws to a close, it will have accomplished little more than being a glorified 90-minute distraction for kids – not an enchanting and memorable addition to the Wizard of Oz movie pantheon. That might be enough to justify watching this feature at home, but probably best to think twice before paying the price of a theater ticket for that same experience.

If you’re still on the fence, here is the trailer for Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return:

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Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return runs 88 minutes long and is Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril. Now playing nation-wide in the U.S. in 2D and 3D theaters.

Our Rating:

1.5 out of 5
(Poor, A Few Good Parts)

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  1. Really 1.5!? You guys are being too generous. This should be a .5 at the most.

  2. Sandy do you draw the short straw and have to review these movies?

    • I’d like to think that reviewing movies like these gives me more perspective, when I see films that aren’t as good as I’d hoped.

      Or maybe it’s just steadily driving me insane. Or both, most likely.

      • Haha yeah just messing with you, it definitely gives perspective. I just feel like they’ve like “Alright Sandy, we’re headed to watch Neighbors, have fun seeing Dorothy’s return” :-P

  3. Reading this review just makes me want to rewatch ‘Return To Oz’ again. A truly great Oz sequel.

    • That movie was weirdddddd. In a good way though, I think.

  4. It just seems to jokey for my taste. Most of the kids I know are big fans of the 1939 version and would be very disappointed.

  5. Why didn’t they just do a cartoon version of Baum’s second Oz book, “The Marvelous Land of Oz”? I really enjoyed that one. It doesn’t include Dorothy though so that could be why.

  6. The more i read negative reviews, the more i get interested in the film. I will definitely recommend Legends of Oz,it’s a good movie.

  7. Went to see Legends Of Oz today with my children, grandchildren and mother, we loved it !!!!!!!The film has great music, great animation and a positive message for all!!!!!!!

  8. Went to see Legends Of Oz today with my children, grandchildren and mother, we loved it !!!!!!!The film has great music, great animation and a positive message for all!!!!!!!
    I am going to see it again!!! I highly recommend the movie!!!!!!!
    All the negative comments made me want to see it for myself! Thank you critic’s

    • Nice try, but the movie will still never even come close to breaking even. The money you invested in it was a wash. Suck it up and try to learn from your experience.

  9. Loved Legends of Oz! Feel it’s the perfect movie to bring the entire family to. Can’t say that about other films that are out now. Cast is amazing, music is great and the animation was adorable. Saw it in 3D and my son as well as my daughters really enjoyed it. Definitely take the entire family…this film has something for everyone.

  10. I thought this movie was actually super cute. Our family saw it in 3D and loved it!


    • I disagree. Critics lauded “Frozen” (89% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and most seemed to like “Despicable Me 2″ (74% “fresh” rating). It seems like a lot of this reviewers qualms had to do with quality–features that weren’t lacking in “Frozen” or “Despicable Me 2″.

      • The person claiming to be Betty Cusa here has cut and pasted this exact same comment on numerous review sites. We can assume that this person is either a studio plant or some one who invested in this film and is desperately hoping to regain losses. Either way “she” can be safely ignored.

  12. I saw Legends Of Oz last weekend with my nieces and nephew and they loved it. I just bought the soundtrack for them because they loved the music. I’m really confused by the negative comments when in the theatre everyone clapped at the end of the movie.

  13. “Mary”/”Betty”…you don’t happen to go by the names JDog/Jacquiford on the IMDB message boards for this movie, do you? …you know, the ones where you are called out as a plant? a shill? hmmm? Your posts are almost EXACTLY the same here. If this is your last desperate, pathetic attempt to pursuade “scarecrow types” – you know, the same types that invested in this steamer, to see the movie…I just don’t think it’s working. Regardless of what you think, people do have brains, eyes, ears and the ability to compare this movie to an industry recognized standard of quality that makes shelling out $50+ for an outing worthwhile.

  14. Ok! First, the Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum & Julie Garland in the Wizard of Oz film is classic & timeless ~ one that’s watched time & again by each generation. The Legends of Oz animated musical film is delightful and charming. It remains to be seen how the kids will react & whether the film stands the test of time. I say that because we [the writer and several of her grand-mother or older gal friends] attended an afternoon show & there were No children watching the film -only about 1 dozen attendees. The gals & I LOVED the animation & melodious musicality of the movie! It will catch on & there should be lots of children seeing it this weekend.

    The music by Bryan Adams, songwriter/composer, pinned for the film is Great — I think the kids will particularly like the song & animation of the Happy song, “Work with Me!” & of course, the journey through Candyland will be loved by the kids.
    The animation process & effects for the characters of Oz (i.e., Tin Man, monkeys) are amazing. I enjoyed listening to the talented singing voice of Lea Michele’s & she really got into the role of Dorothy’s character.

    This grownup Loved/enjoyed the wonderful stellar, talented voices of Megan Hilty & Hugh Dancy, both in their solo performances & as the ‘China Princess & Marshall Mallow’ singing their Beautiful duet song, ‘Even Then’.~ sigh :-)
    Martin Short really shines as the Jester don’t you think; & kudos go to the costume designing for the Jester — Patrick Stewart is also great & appealing to the little ones as Tugg the Tugboat!

    The gals thought the movie was very ‘cute’ & well suited for young children to see — lots of laughs & chuckles made in the journey through candyland — all of them will tell their kids to take their grandchildren to see it.

    Personally (& at my suggestion) we All agreed, over cups of Hot Tea, to give it an A+ on being a positive role model with high marks in educational values to be discussed w/the kids. Some of the values we talked about were: 1) the good Vs evil; the “work with me” attitude in helping one another, 2) a reiteration of helping those in need of a brain(education); of courage, & heart (scarecrow/lion/tin man) & 3) it connects the dots to people in Dorothy’s Kansas; e.g., the Jester & the appraiser abusing governmental powers, et al.

    One reservation perhaps could be for parents to be cautious about their young 3 to 4 YOs seeing the film ~ the mean flying monkeys battle in 3D might be too scary for them.

    Although the Top Box Office attendance stats were not as great as other films at this point (about $3.7M), I do think it will do Very Well, especially in DVD sales for home viewing.

    TOYS: I think the Jester, Toto, Tin Man & Marshall Mallow plush toys will do well; & I believe the Hotest item will be the fashion Singing Dorothy Doll w/cute cowboy boots, et al- especially since she sings the Happy song “Work with Me” from the movie. Like Dorothy, let’s think positive & remember, “There Will Always be a Rainbow when One Needs it Most”

    • et tu, Grandma? seriously? even a shameless plug for the toys?

  15. I’m French and I watched it and I liked it, I mean it has flaws in both the story and animation ( like back in the sims kansas) but the designs of the characters looks great and the villain is well now as an animation fan I know that we expect more in animation (like frozen and how to train your dragon 2) and I understand Oz fans who didn’t feel to be in Oz when they watched the movie cause really myself I didn’t feel in Oz (it missed of the “Baum Spice” in that soup ) because Oz is maybe a fairy tail but it as a certain epicness to it that I didn’t found in this movie but for a starting studio it’s rather a enough well film but they need more experiment and another chance to show they can do better
    in big it’s not a great movie but it’s not a bad movie either
    and Dorothy in this doesn’t play a damsel in distress in that one not like the 1939 version at least they try to respect the Dorothy in the books and that’s a good point in an Oz movie so I say to the studios ” from your fails you learn, but from your success not much so keep moving foward and repair the flaws that you made if you ever do a sequel still based on Roger Baum’s books”

  16. I mean fairy tale sorry for the error in the post I just sent

  17. I don’t know why there is such a low rating! I give it 4 and a half stars because I believe it’s a great movie and I hope some sequels follow. Though the animated characters could have been better constructed. I watched this movie as soon as it came out as a prescreening on the day before. Futhermore, this movie was not exactly the movie I was expecting. I assumed this was the animated Wonderful Wizard Of Oz movie that John Boorman was working on. John Boorman’s preview of the one he worked on had far better CGI animation. I want to know if he is still working on his version. If so, when does John Boorman plan to release it?