Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (PG)
facebook; Fox Digital HD; IMDb; Oz Wiki; Prana Studios; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
When I first heard of this, before it came out, it was called "Dorothy of Oz." It's based on the book of that name (which I haven't read), by Roger S. Baum, the grandson of L. Frank Baum. It's the kind of movie I easily could have been unaware of, if not for my specifically looking for info on upcoming movies, to mention on my website's calendar. Once I learned of its existence, I wanted to check it out because it has a really good cast, and the animation looked like it would be good. (And I thought Dorothy was cute.) But it didn't do well critically, and its box office take was a lot less than it cost to make. Which doesn't really surprise me, because as far as I could tell, it got pretty much no promotion. On the up side (for me), this meant that the DVD only cost me $5 (just one year after it was released).
So... it begins with the Lion (Jim Belushi) and the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) arriving at the castle of the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), in Emerald City. He's called them there to help deal with a new threat facing Oz. But it's too late. The Wicked Witch's broom has been stolen. So the Scarecrow uses a machine he's invented that can create a rainbow to transport Dorothy from Kansas back to Oz. (I'm not entirely sure, by the way, whether the story is meant to be a sequel to the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz, or if it hews more closely to the history established in L. Frank Baum's books, which I haven't read.) In any event, the Scarecrow says that years have passed in Oz since Dorothy's last visit, but for her it will have been just a day.
The scene switches to Kansas, where we see Dorothy (Lea Michele) waking up, and then going outside to survey the damage caused by the twister. And there is a lot of damage. Then an appraiser shows up to, you know, appraise the damage. He and his assistant tell Dorothy and her aunt and uncle that the whole place must be condemned. (The appraiser is voiced by Martin Short, who I knew would also be voicing the villain in Oz, not to mention having a strong physical resemblance, so that certainly seems in keeping with the way things worked both in the 1939 movie, and in Return to Oz- though the latter movie definitely isn't part of the same continuity as this one, even if a few things in this movie put me somewhat in mind of Return to Oz.) Anyway, Dorothy and her folks go into town, where it's obvious the twister caused terrible damage for pretty much everyone (which I thought was a realistic touch). Dorothy refuses to accept the idea of leaving her home, which leads to a song montage. At the end of the song, the rainbow that the Scarecrow had sent finds Dorothy, and chases her and Toto, in a scene that I found both amusing and also... well, Dorothy's reaction was realistic, because I mean... of course you're going to be scared of a rainbow that is behaving nothing like a rainbow, right? Very ominous, that. But anyway, it catches her and Toto, and transports them to Oz. Before they arrive, the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man talk to her via a sort of hologram, but they don't have time to tell her much, before they're captured by flying monkeys. Or... they had to leave, to evade the monkeys. Whatever, I think they actually left the control room before the rainbow even found her, so... it's confusing. In any event, Dorothy lands somewhere other than Emerald City, and decides to make her way there, so her friends can explain what's going on. Though before she gets there, the monkeys capture her friends and take them to the castle of the villain, the Jester.
The Jester had stolen the Wicked Witch's broomstick, and enhanced its power with an orb that he attached to it, thereby turning it into a scepter. At one point, we see the flying monkeys bringing him a new prisoner, Glinda the Good Witch (Bernadette Peters). He uses the scepter to turn her into a marionette that will only do what he wants, just as he had done with various other leaders from around Oz, because he wants to become the one and only ruler of Oz. He kept them all in glass cases, except for Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man, who had special individualized prisons. (It's kind of neat that all three of their prisons were particularly suited to their greatest weaknesses, but all three of them had a sort of carnival theme, which seemed appropriate, considering their captor.) Anyway, we don't get a good look at all of the prisoners, and I'm sure most of them would have been completely unknown to me. (Though one of them looked to me suspiciously like Woody from Toy Story.)
Meanwhile, Dorothy meets a large owl named Wiser (Oliver Platt), whom she invites to accompany her. Wiser knows a shortcut through Candy Country, where everything is made of candy (including the citizens). He knows there's a law against eating any of the candy, but the signs forbidding it have been altered by the Jester to encourage the eating of candy, so Wiser figures the law has been changed. Of course it hasn't, so they're arrested by a soldier named Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), and brought before Judge Jawbreaker (Brian Blessed), who condemns them to death. However, he commutes the sentence when he learns that she is Dorothy, the famous witch-slayer. Mallow is concerned about the absence of General Candy Apple, who had gone to the Emerald City some time ago, and should have returned by now. So Dorothy invites Mallow to accompany her and Wiser. (Of course, the general is one of the Jester's prisoners.) They try following the Yellow Brick Road, but find their path blocked by a Great Wall, which surrounds Dainty China Country (where the citizens are all made of porcelain). The gatekeeper doesn't want to let them in, because the China Princess is in the process of choosing a suitor. So Dorothy tells the guard that Mallow is a suitor, and he lets them all in. (The princess is voiced by Megan Hilty, who has played Rosetta in the Tinker Bell movies ever since Secret of the Wings; or actually, since the TV special Pixie Hollow Games. I find this interesting, because there were a few times in this movie that Dorothy vaguely reminded me of Tinker Bell.) Anyway, Jester creates an earthquake to frighten the citizens of Dainty China Country, which at first China Princess blames Dorothy for, but then she decides to join them in their quest. She wants to help eliminate Jester, who is becoming an increasing threat to her people.
So, that seems to be the main group of heroes, now: Dorothy, Wiser, Mallow, and China Princess. (And Toto, of course.) But they soon come to a river over which the bridge had been destroyed. So Dorothy decides to build a boat, and goes to collect wood. Naturally, the trees turn out to be sentient, and of course they don't want her using their bodies to build a boat. But she meets one old tree (Patrick Stewart), who volunteers to become her ship. (Which is kind of disturbing, but whatever.) Dorothy and the others (including a bunch of random creatures that come by) work on building a ship out of the tree, during another song montage. And when the ship is completed, she names him Tugg. (His face is now kind of like a masthead, or something.) So, they sail toward Emerald City. When they get there, they find it abandoned, and are addressed by Jester (remotely, using a cloud-like effect that I think had previously been used by the Wizard). Then they get attacked by flying monkeys and have to sail away on Tugg to escape.
And... I have revealed a lot, but I just felt it was all necessary just to set up the premise of the movie. By this point, the end is getting close, but still a lot more happens, the details of which I am not going to reveal. I'll just say that there are more setbacks for our heroes, before they inevitably win in the end. The Jester is defeated, the prisoners are all freed, and Dorothy returns home. And she manages to create for herself a happy ending there, as well as in Oz. Anyway... it's not a great movie, but it wasn't bad, either. I mean, it had some weak parts, but it also had some really good parts (especially if you're fond of puns). It was about as strange as you could hope any Oz story would be, and there was a decent adventure, a reasonably diabolical (and silly) villain, some humor, some surprisingly dark drama, and even some genuinely touching moments. The songs were a bit hit-or-miss, but some of them were decent (which isn't surprising, considering the cast, particularly Michele). The animation was decent, too. And... I don't know what else to tell you, except that I really think it deserved to fare better than it did, both critically and financially. Though I also can't really blame anyone for not liking it, either. It's very understandably... not for everyone. But I'm happy to have seen it.