There used to be such a thing as a "straight-to-video" release and everybody usually knew what that meant: That the movie sucked, or was otherwise too lame for a theatrical release. In today's world, these B and C-caliber films are often made "On Demand," which is sort of an ironic moniker, since that label implies that there is someone out there who would actually want to watch it. With this lesson in mind comes Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (opening today), a film so horrible that it defies proper categorization. It's the Citizen Kane of crap, a film that is somehow being released theatrically, despite the fact that it should have never even been made.
Harsh? I feel I'm being too nice. Animated by Prana Animation Studios - the company responsible for other straight-to-video/On Demand releases like 2008's Tinker Bell and 2009's Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure - they create a visual style for this Oz adventure that would have maybe looked cutting-edge if released in the 90s. Adding insult to injury, this new film is being released in 3D, despite being one of the worst, dullest 3D experiences of my life.
Most of the voice cast - other then Glee alum Lea Michele as Dorothy - reads like a list of out-of-work Hollywood has-beens: Martin Short. Kelsey Grammer. Dan Aykroyd. Jim Belushi. Bernadette Peters. For a group of actors that boast films like Pure Luck, Down Periscope, Coneheads, Curly Sue and Pink Cadillac, as part of their collective filmographies, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return marks new career lows for them all.
Gone is the wonder or imagination of the classic Oz film, or even the spirit of reverence that the 2013 film, Oz, The Great and Powerful carried with it. This tale is quite simple: Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man whisk Dorothy and Toto back to Oz to defeat a new throw-away villain, The Jester, who has imprisoned Glinda the Good Witch and other prominent Oz leaders. The film doesn't even possess the common sense to have the book-end Kansas scenes put in black and white...perhaps they were having color correction issues on the laptop this film was presumably edited on.
She meets a series of new, uninspired and forgettable characters in her return trip to Oz, Wiser the Owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy) and China Princess (Megan Hilty). Matching the lame new characters is a slew of new, painfully awful songs for them to sing. Breaking the cardinal sin of children's movies, there is not even a central message or lesson-to-be-learned from the story.
It's bad, but it becomes appalling when you consider just how transparent an attempt this film is to cash in on the popularity of the Oz characters and franchise. Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return does echo a few themes from the original Oz film though: There are no traces of any brains, it contains no heart at all and it lacks the necessary courage to try to tell an original story.
It also had me frantically repeating to myself, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." If only I could click my heels and forget about this horrible nightmare.
Run Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes, Rated PG
Starring (voices of): Lea Michele, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Kelsey Grammer, Bernadette Peters, Oliver Platt, Hugh Dancy
Directed by Will Finn (The Road to El Dorado, Home on the Range) & Dan St. Pierre (Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey, Everyone's Hero)
Opens locally on Friday, May 9, 2014 (check for show times).
Be sure to watch Tom Santilli on TV! Check your local listings for “Movie Show Plus” for Tom’s weekly movie review segment, airing at 10:30 p.m. EST every Sunday, on MYTV20 in Detroit.
How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time