Lea Michele voices Dorothy in "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return."
By Barbara Vancheri / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" takes us back over the rainbow to Oz but not to the magic of the 1939 original movie. This one is based on the book "Dorothy of Oz" by Roger Stanton Baum, great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, whose writing inspired the Judy Garland classic.
Starring: Voices of Lea Michele, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Kelsey Grammer.
Rating: PG for some scary images and mild peril.
Voice talent includes actresses and actors of note but the animated musical looks like a direct-to-DVD movie. The songs, including a sweet one called "Even Then," evaporate before you've tossed the 3-D glasses into the recycling carton or dumped the unpopped kernels of corn.
The story opens with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and no-longer-cowardly Lion (Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer and Jim Belushi, respectively) trying to get a message to Dorothy (Lea Michele), who is back in twister-ravaged Kansas. She, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are devastated when a shady appraiser declares their farm a disaster and orders them to vacate the premises.
Neighbors are packing belongings into pickup trucks and moving out when Dorothy and Toto are swept up by a "rainbow mover" and transported to Oz. But not even Glinda (Bernadette Peters) can help her; the good witch has been turned into a marionette by the villainous Jester (Martin Short), brother of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Dorothy, Toto and some new friends -- a zaftig owl, a man made of marshmallows with cupcakes as epaulets, a tiny porcelain princess who rules Dainty China Country and an aged tree -- try to make it to Emerald City to rescue her old friends and save Oz from the cruel clutches of the Jester.
In a world where a movie the caliber of "Monsters University" couldn't land one of five Oscar nominations for animated feature, "Legends of Oz" is merely adequate. It gives us too little of the beloved trio from the live-action original and keeps them separated from Dorothy for too long.
The vocal cast, however, is impressive, and also counts Hugh Dancy as Marshal Mallow, Patrick Stewart as a repurposed tree, Oliver Platt as Wiser the talkative owl, and Megan Hilty as the China Princess.
There is just a brief shot of the Wicked Witch, for those who wig out at her green face, but the flying monkeys are back. One with a purple mohawk doubles as the hench-monkey of the Jester, but the movie easily falls within the PG boundaries.
There's still no place like home although also no ruby slippers or silver shoes (as in the book), but younger moviegoers -- at whom this is aimed -- probably won't know the difference and might get a kick out of Dorothy's cowgirl boots.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.
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