Monday, May 12, 2014

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return [2013]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  ChicagoTribune (1 1/2 Stars) (1 Star)  AVClub (D)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (R. Moore) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (K. MacFarland) review

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return [2013] (directed by Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre, screenplay by Adam Balsam and Randi Barnes, based on the Oz inspired children's book "Dorothy of Oz" (2010) by Roger S. Baum [IMDb] the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum [IMDb], the original author of the "Oz" children's book series) will probably disappoint a lot of parents and on a number of levels.

First of all let's face it, the "bar" for a film seeking to ride on the magic of The Wizard of Oz [1939], one of the most beloved American children's films of all times is necessary HIGH.

Second, while the original Oz books actually were "political" dealing with some (in our day) rather esoteric arguments about whether or not the nation's money should be backed by a silver standard in addition to the (then current) gold standard (The "yellow brick road" just took Dorothy deeper into magical/unreal world of "Oz" while her "silver ruby slippers" brought her home...), the more or less obvious "Red-state" / "anti-government" message of the current film (though Kansas today would be in the "Red State" camp) will irritate more than a few parents.  Part of what made the 1939 film so successful was that the original politics of the story was already lost on most viewers even in the 1930s to say nothing of the decades since.  In contrast, Dorothy (voiced quite well actually by Lea Michele) is re-imagined in this film as a Dallas Cowboy boot wearing contemporary "country girl" / Miley Cyrus [IMBb] look-alike who saves her town from an unscrupulous huckster (voiced by Martin Short) who arrived as a "government licensed appraiser" (but one who apparently wanted to buy out the whole town on the cheap) after the town got hit by a tornado...

Meanwhile back in Oz, Martin Short also voices that world's analogous villain named "The Jester" (evil brother of the original Wizard of Oz's "Wicked Witch of the West") who wants to take over the whole of Oz and turn all the characters from the first movie -- Glinda the Good Witch (voiced by Bernadette Peters), The Scarecrow (voiced by Dan Aykroyd), The Tin Man (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) and The Lion (voiced by Jim Belushi) -- into his literally his "puppets." 

Before being taken captive by the Jester's flying monkey minions, the Scarecrow (now with a brain) operating a contraption that produces a rainbow wormhole, sends said wormhole to Dorothy to bring her back to Oz.  Mid-flight, the Scarecrow along with his two other friends, the Tin Man and the Lion, are captured by the flying monkeys.  So Dorothy in said rainbow wormhole (along with her trusted dog Toto) crash somewhere in the Land of Oz, but far from the Emerald City.  So she has to walk there ... again ... and along the way pick-up a new set of companions including: a "chatty," rather than particularly wise Owl named Wiser (voiced by Oliver Platt), a "mushy" soldier named Marshall Mellow (voiced by Hugh Dancy), a rather "haughty/rigid/fragile China Princess (voiced by Megan Hilty) and a rather depressed "searching for another purpose" dying/older tree who Dorothy names Tugg (voiced by Patrick Stewart).   All these are also threatened the puppeteer wannabe "Jester" ... and it's up to Dorothy then to save them all as well.

While some of these new characters have disappointed various critics, IMHO in themselves, I did not find them that badly drawn.  It's just the megalomaniacal "Jester" (and remember he's a "government licensed adjuster" back home) who wants to turn everyone else into his "puppet" is just a ridiculous right-wing overreach.  Would it be better if FEMA didn't come in TO MANAGE ASSISTANCE to tornado victims after such local disasters?

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