“Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” picks up where L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (and Victor Fleming’s 1939 live-action adaptation “The Wizard of Oz”) left off. But the new 3-D animation feels like a formulaic knockoff of the original, replacing most everything whimsical about its predecessor with inane surrogates.
Dorothy (voiced by Lea Michele) has traded Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and Lion (Jim Belushi) for Wiser the plump owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty) and Tugg the tree (Patrick Stewart) as her travel companions. The warlock Jester (Martin Short) vows to avenge the death of his sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, just as she did for the Wicked Witch of the East in the original. “Over the Rainbow” has been supplanted by some throwaway number about teamwork courtesy of Bryan Adams.
Whatever the shortcomings inherent in “Dorothy of Oz,” they are only exacerbated here by sweatshop animation, cringeworthy ditties and a DreamWorks-influenced wisecracking screenplay by Adam Balsam and Randi Barnes that undermines the story at almost every turn.
In the original “Oz,” Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion yearned for a brain, a heart and the nerve. But in this “Legends of Oz,” based on a book by Baum’s great grandson, Roger S. Baum, Dorothy’s pals have no such lofty desires. The same can be said about the film itself. If it only had a brain, a heart and the nerve.
“Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return”
MPAA rating: PG for scary images and mild peril.
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.
Playing: In general release.