Two weeks ago the new animated film Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return opened and immediately met with audience trepidation and hostile reviews that resulted in a very low cumulative rating on Rotten Tomatoes (currently standing at just 15%). I believe these reactions are unjust and the film deserves a second consideration. Yes, by taking on such a revered story the filmmakers set themselves up for this kind of knee-jerk reaction, but if you listen to the naysayers you’ll be denying yourself the opportunity of seeing a truly charming film as entertaining as it is appropriate for the whole family. How many other films can you say that about this holiday weekend?
I get the reason for the initial gut response. I too was hesitant to accept any telling of a story involving Dorothy that didn’t have Judy Garland and the rest of the 1939 elements involved. In fact, I would have thought it ill advised to even think of taking on such a venture. After all, The Wizard of Oz is one of the most acclaimed and cherished films ever made. Most people (although not everyone) has seen the beloved musical either on television, in a revival house or on DVD, and that Technicolor presentation (with a little bit of black and white) is the way generations have and will always think of Oz. Period. So, why even try to make something new? For the simple reason that it’s not the only Oz story out there to have captured the imagination of a generation of young readers. I know it might shock you, but there are actually a whole bunch of books by L. Frank Baum, let alone by his great-grandson, Roger S. Baum who picked up the storytelling mantle and created the book on which Legends is based.
I had the opportunity of seeing Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return last November during the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California. Although I admit I was less than open-minded about the idea of yet another film attempting to depict an Oz based story, I was pleasantly surprised if not overwhelmed with the quality of the overall production value. From the animation to the star-studded cast Oz is a solidly made film worthy of high praise it has yet to receive. No, the animation is not “Disney”. But neither was Toy Story. Anything that isn’t what we’re use to takes a little adjusting to. However, I found myself accepting the style very quickly as the engaging story progressed and drew me in. Besides Dorothy (Lea Michele) and the expected trio of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion (voiced by Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi and Kelsey Grammer respectively) there are a delightful group of new characters such as the soldier Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), an owl named Wiser (Oliver Platt), the China Princess (Megan Hilty) and the fearsome foe of The Jester (Martin Short).
Honestly, all in all, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is a film that earns every cent of your admission dollar. Whether it’s animation you’re looking for, or action, or adventure, or fantasy, or a love story (trust me, it works) or even a 3D presentation there’s plenty of appeal for every generation of the family. And on a long weekend at the precipice of summer with the whole family chomping at the bits for something to do together what more could you ask for? I say see it. Given half a chance, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return will not disappoint even the most ardent of Oz admirers.