Voices of: Lea Michele Dan Akroyd James Belushi Kelsey Grammer Martin Short Oliver Platt
Hugh Dancy Megan Hilty Patrick Stewart Bernadette Peters
LEGENDS OF OZ:
Dorothy (Michele) seems to have become a superhero in Oz since she returned to Kansas. In Kansas, she awakens to the aftermath of a tornado that has destroyed her home, and her uncle and aunt seem to be all too ready to give up their farm to the “government.” Unbeknownst to her, however, a rainbow is going to come down and transport her back to Oz. Her old friends have summoned her there to rein in the Jester (Short), who has taken control of Oz and turned almost everyone into puppets, including the good witch Glinda (Peters), Lion (Belushi), Scarecrow (Akroyd), and Tin Man (Grammer).
With her dog Toto, she proceeds in the direction of Oz, encountering new acquaintances along the way. One of these is Fat Owl (Platt), who has become so fat he can’t fly any more, but he agrees to show Dorothy the way to Oz. Along the way, they have to cut through Candy Land as a shortcut, but the Jester has wickedly changed the signs to read “Eat all you want” from “Don’t eat the candy”, which means they break the law. So they are hauled up to the judge by Marshal Mallow (Dancy) for indulging, but when Judge Jawbreaker finds out who Dorothy is, he releases them. As they continue their journey to Oz, other trials await them. They come upon the China Princess (Hilty) who is entertaining suitors. Dorothy pushes the reluctant Marshal Mallow forward to be a candidate as a way to get assistance from the princess in reaching Oz. That’s complicated, but in the end she agrees to help, whereupon they all come to a river that can only be forded in a boat, which they don’t have. However, a kind old tree is willing to transform himself into a boat, Tugg (Stewart), and off they go once again, but it will be a dangerous journey.
Once they arrive, they must confront not only the Jester, but his flying monkeys as well, and a fierce battle ensues.
The palette and special effects of Dorothy’s Return are gorgeous and rather clever (Dan St. Pierre, production designer). Children in the audience at the screening I attended were completely engaged, and the story was clear enough that even small children were able to follow the action. To see a female in a strong, authoritative, heroic role is refreshing, especially since Dorothy is discounted time and again with, “But you’re just a little girl.”
There is some criticism from diehard fans of the Oz series about the script by L. Frank Baum’s great grandson, Roger, but I found this production from Alpine Pictures’ Summertime Entertainment to be joyfully entertaining. The cast of voices are from top tier comedic and dramatic actors, which complements the visual effects and story to make a wonderful movie for kids.