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Andrew Wilson Williams
Dorothy wakes up in post-tornado Kansas, only to be whisked back to Oz to try to save her old friends the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man and Glinda from a devious new villain, the Jester. Wiser the owl, Marshal Mallow, China Princess and Tugg the tugboat join Dorothy on her latest magical journey through the colorful landscape of Oz to restore order and happiness to Emerald City. Written by
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, directed by Dan St. Pierre and Will Finn, met all of my expectations- which were very high to begin with. The film succeeds because it brilliantly pays homage to previous Oz adaptations (the opening credits sequence, for instance, is very clearly inspired by Journey Back to Oz), and there's something nostalgic and charming about it all.
One of the strongest elements of the film is its music. The songs, written by Bryan Adams, Tift Merritt, Jim Dooley, and Jim Vallance, have a timeless quality to them, while still contemporary and fresh. "When the World" and "Even Then" are as good as anything on Broadway, while "Work With Me" and "Candy Candy" are catchy and fun. The score, composed by Toby Chu, is engaging and complements the film really well. I'd like to see the score get a full release sometime in the future.
The cast is perfect. Lea Michele's Dorothy is brave, sweet, and charismatic. Jim Belushi, Kelsey Grammar, and Dan Aykroyd are fantastic as the Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow; they're hilarious as a group and individually. Megan Hilty, Oliver Platt, Hugh Dancy, and Bernadette Peters are all wonderful as well. Martin Short, of course, steals the show as the Jester, the Witch of the West's younger brother.
The weakest part of this film is, obviously, the animation, done by Prana Animation Studios. It's not horrible, but there are a few moments in the film where it is distracting. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, for example, are very robotic and hardly have any facial expression. I also would've liked to see a bit more expression from Dorothy when she belts out "When the World" at the beginning of the film. Luckily, however, the good outweighs the bad by far.
I also enjoyed some of the little easter eggs in there. There's a sign in Kansas that says "Engstrom Street," a reference to the film's art director Seth Engstrom. There's also a store in Kansas called "Duncan," which is the name of the studio that designed the characters.
I feel like Legends of Oz is the first true Oz film we've had in years; it really captures the spirit and magic of everything we know and love, while maintaining a fresh, contemporary feeling. I think L. Frank Baum himself would be proud of this one, and I hope that moviegoers give this film a chance and enjoy it as much as I did... I'm already making plans to see it again!
Bravo to everyone who was involved in this film's long journey to the big screen, especially Ryan Carroll, Roland Carroll, and Greg Centineo, who impressively managed to raise enough money to get this thing made and in theaters without the involvement of a major studio. Their dedication and effort certainly paid off.
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