The Other Side of Animation #10: Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return Review

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The absolute worst sin a movie can do is a combination of two things. The first part of the sin is not enveloping you in the film’s world. We watch movies to escape reality and to be enveloped/entertained by the story and the characters in front of us. The second part of this sin is wasting the time of the viewer. No one wants to go into a theater, buy a ticket, obtain some overpriced snacks, sit down for the movie, and walk out thinking “that was a waste of my time and money.”  Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is a prime example of said sins. I can’t just sum it up in one review. I mean, I can and will, but let’s start with a little history about the movie. This film was developed by Summertime Entertainment, and an animation studio in India called Prana Studios. Prana is a studio that gets a lot of outsourcing work from Disney to make those straight-to-DVD Tinker Bell films. Legends of Oz supposedly cost $70 million, which was the most expensive film that the outsourcing animated studio had ever worked on. Apparently the entire budget was all from multiple investors that were either from big companies or from fundraising. I read somewhere that over 150K people invested in this film. Legends of Oz was released into theaters in France on February 2013 and in the states May of 2014. Want to know how this film did? Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return has the most eligible title of the biggest box office bomb of 2014. Not only that, but it also has the comfy 9th place spot in worst worldwide openings. It is also known as one of the biggest box office flops for a CGI animated film, only raking in a little over $3 million on opening weekend and an overall total of $18 million, but again, this film had a budget of $70 million. I mean, if you have the title for the one of worst opening weekends for a CGI animated film, you are a very special case of awful. The little cherry on this cake of failure is that some of the investors and producers of the film are being charged with some kind of financial fraud. It’s just a lovely and horrific trainwreck of everyone involved. Even the producer, Greg Centineo, and the many investors think there was a conspiracy to make this film a failure in the box office. Marketing was pulled from everywhere you can think of, and many theaters took it out of their lists of movies being shown. Or, you know, the investors and the producer of the film could have admitted to the making of a horrible movie and scammed the heck out of everyone. This was one of the hardest disasters to sit through that I have ever had to see. Let’s dive in to the 10th review of The Other Side of Animation: Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return. Oh, and possible spoilers for the movie.

The story apparently takes place right after the 1939 live-action classic. Dorothy, voiced by Glee star Lea Michele is helping her family and town repair the buildings after the tornado incident. Then, out of nowhere and I mean that literally, an appraiser, voiced by Martin Short, comes into town claiming that he owns everything in the small town. Apparently everyone in Kansas is fine with this man who comes out of nowhere, has rather questionable credentials, and don’t follow up with any questions about him or where he comes from. Yeah, if I have to start breaking down the logic in the opening of the movie, you have some serious problems. Anyway, back in Oz, where apparently years have passed, everything is watched over by Scarecrow, voiced by Dan Aykroyd, Lion, voiced by Jim Belushi, and Tin Man, voiced by Kelsey Grammer. However, a new villain named The Jester, also voiced by Martin Short, decides to wreck everything and become the ruler of Oz. Before getting caught, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion get in contact with Dorothy, and bring her back to help save the land of Oz. Along her journey, she meets a very fat owl named Wiser, voiced by Oliver Platt, a candy soldier named Marshal Mallow, voiced by Hannibal’s Hugh Dancy, a princess made of China, voiced by Smash’s Megan Hilty, and a large tree voiced by Patrick Stewart. Can they save the land from The Jester? Can they point out how stupid this movie is so I don’t have to?

As of this point in this review, I have nothing positive for the film, which results in me having to talk about the bad things! There is plenty, and I mean plenty of negative things to say about this movie. It’s like going to a buffet. You pay the price and have all you can criticize! Let’s start with the tone of the movie since it’s all over the place, more than a drunk guy attempting to throw darts at a dartboard. First off, this film is supposed to take place during the 30s during the great depression era. Well then, why do the opening credits have toy planes and a skateboard that are obviously not from that period in time? Why do the cars and clothes everyone wears look like something from I Love Lucy? Why does the film have so many unintentionally creepy moments? Why does it sound like the film is trying to ride the wave of Frozen’s popularity, when it has nothing to do with that movie? You see? When you can’t get into a movie, you start picking it apart! You can’t focus or feel invested in the story because the logic, characters, and story are horribly put together. For example, we know The Jester, who currently has the most powerful magic in the Land of Oz, now has immense magical power, and he says that before he got all the delicious magical power, he couldn’t take the curse off himself. Well, once he got the power, why didn’t he take the curse off himself? He has the power to do anything! The Jester has the time to change the signs from “Do Not Eat the Candy” to “Please Eat the Candy”, but not enough time to take the curse off himself?!  Don’t get me started on some of the inconsistencies of the film from the original classic. Like there is this scene later on in the film where they need to build a boat, and Dorothy just rips a limb off a tree. Um, does she not remember the last time she tried to pick something off a tree in Oz? Why would she think it would work the second time around? Did she just forget about it?! The trees even make a reference to this happening in the past.

I can’t move onto the rest of the review without talking about how creepy this film can be at times. The moment when Dorothy gets transported to Oz by a rainbow shaped like a hand is not whimsical, because she is terrified out of her wits to get caught by it. At another point back at the scene where they need to build a tree, they run into Patrick Stewart’s character that I remind you, is a talking tree, who basically tells Dorothy that she can use him for the materials for the boat. That is like an old person coming up to us and being fine with us gutting him, cutting off his limbs, and turning him into a go kart. Another scene that oozes something out of an episode of Criminal Minds or Hannibal is the where the China Princess is broken, and Mallow, the candy knight guy, uses pieces of himself to mend her back together. It’s not really romantic or touching, since that is like me ripping off my own skin to fix another’s arm that got blown off.

The characters are just terrible. Dorothy, going from the innocent wide-eyed bystander of everything, is now a boring plain female hero. Wiser, the overweight owl says he is, well, wise and knows many things like not to eat the candy (since he was arrested a total of 499 times for eating the candy), but then thinks it’s okay, because he doesn’t notice the signs have oddly changed all of a sudden. Wouldn’t he be more curious as to why the signs changed, rather than stuffing his face for the 500th time? Did nothing in that little feathered brain of his notice something off-putting? The other characters are either boring, like Marshal Mallow, or very unlikable, like the Dainty China Princess. The Dainty China Princess is nothing more than an individual who gets off on liking a person for their looks, and has literally done more damage to her people than anything The Jester could ever do. She basically straight-up murders some minor characters. The romance between Mallow and the China Princess has no point. They don’t really talk to one another or bond. They also made the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man have these weird character traits, like the Scarecrow is super smart, the Lion is like a college frat boy, and the Tin Man is overly emotional to the point of being annoying.

The animation quality is your standard straight-to-DVD/TV quality CGI, which makes more sense since the film was apparently supposed to originally have gone straight to DVD. Legend of Oz had no reason to go into theaters when it had to deal with films like Big Hero 6, How to Train your Dragon 2, and The Book of Life in 2014’s high quality animation department. It’s funny to see how many movies think they can match Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks animation, but come out looking like made-for-TV-grade CGI films. The music by Bryan Adams is terrible; some of the worst music I have ever heard. I know he has done some good music, like for that one Dreamworks film, Spirits, but still. This movie had no reason to include music. I know the original classic The Wizard of Oz had music, but it was well written and, you know, good! The voicework is mediocre. No one besides Martin Short puts in a good performance. Even then, I have seen Martin Short do so much better in live-action and animated films.

So, do I like anything about this movie? Well, besides that this is a good movie for a very bad movie night, I guess I like how colorful it is, but I really don’t have anything nice to say about this movie. I will also give Martin Short credit for making the only funny line in the movie, when we actually see him talking to Glenda.

It’s funny how this film fails in about every way possible. It’s even worse when you realize the two directors, Will Finn and Daniel St. Pierre, have worked on films like Disney’s Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Dreamworks’ The Road to El Dorado. Sure, it is mostly animation credits, but after working on films that know how to be good, it seems like you would gain the experience to know what the heck you are doing! You can tell that, of those 150K or so of people that invested in this film, they are not happy since it became well-known that people online were giving this film great reviews and positive word-of-mouth whereas the people that actually saw the movie say otherwise. Essentially, the investors/backers tried to manipulate the user scores to make the film look better. It’s basically what happened with how Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas went down, or how terrible indie developers on Steam get positive reviews from their friends lists for their games, when they really aren’t that good. Until I see otherwise, this is the worst movie I have seen and had to review on The Other Side of the Animation. Sure, it might have more effort in it than something like Food Fight, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good movie. I feel badly for any poor unfortunate soul who went ahead and made their choice to help fund this movie. It deserved to have stayed out of the mass public eye, and you shouldn’t have to waste your time in watching this movie. Avoid this movie at all costs, and go out and get the original The Wizard of Oz or Return to Oz, or heck, buy both! Boy, I don’t think I have gotten so upset about a movie in a while. How about we review our first Japanese-animated film with Memories? Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Rating: The Worst

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