Dorothy is back in the land of Oz and must save her old friends Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man from the devious Jester. An all-star cast provide the voices but the film can’t get out of first gear…
This summer really has been the worst year for children’s films. Apart from the great How To Train Your Dragon 2, we’ve had Pudsey the Dog, Postman Pat: The Movie, Tarzan 3D, The Unbeatables, etc. The problem is that we’ve been given this vacuum as a result of other children’s films being pushed back to a later release date. Disney’s Big Hero 6 in November this year, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur postponed to November 2015, and Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep Movie pushed back to February 2015. Once the maestros of animation are away, the second/third tier animation studios from around the world (from England to America to Germany to Korea to Argentina and so on) come in and release their own sub-par attempts. It’s here you realise just how few studios there are which can be trusted to bring us a great children’s film. Let’s not forget the surprise smash hit this year was The Lego Movie, a delightful, incredibly funny, witty comedy for everyone.
Unfortunately, in the case of Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, we’ve fallen back into the same camp as Tarzan 3D and the Postman Pat movie. It is the perfect example of a really mediocre kids’ movie. Released to tie in with the 75th anniversary of the original 1939 classic, this Wizard of Oz spin-off sees Dorothy Gale waking up to a devastated, post-tornado Kansas before being rushed back to Oz to save her old friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, Glinda the Good Witch and the entire Land of Oz from the devious brother of the Wicked Witch of the West – The Jester. With Dorothy as their only hope to restore happiness to the Emerald City, she embarks on another journey along the yellow brick road, meeting a host of new friends including Wiser the Owl, Marshal Mallow, China Princess and Tugg the Treeboat along the way.
The original 1939 classic still remains a firm favourite and the perfect example of a family/children’s movie done right. It was filled with great songs, great performances, and beautiful cinematography. Now, there have been many different movie spin-offs and different iterations of the original text, and the high watermark, regardless of what anyone else thinks, is Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful. Raimi cleverly expanded on the world of The Wizard of Oz and made something that, although flawed, was still quite wonderful. It was visually impressive, it maintained a healthy balance between the laughs and the scares, and it owed a debt to Terry Gilliam’s highly underrated Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.
This, however, is at the bottom end of the scale. The story is very shallow and formulaic, and the humour is incredibly juvenile in comparison to the sharp gags in The Lego Movie. Yes, this is meant to be a family movie, but all of the jokes and storytelling are squarely aimed at younger children, with little entertainment value for the poor parents that take their own munchkins to see this. Be warned; Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and Aardman this isn’t.
In the end, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return has joined the ranks of Tarzan 3D and The Unbeatables as one of the worst animated kids movies of this year, and if you were faced with the choice between staying in or seeing this, then most of you will be forced to conclude that there’s really no place like home.