A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return is a sweet, if unoriginal, 3D animated musical that boasts a cast of characters who will be familiar to fans of the original Wizard of Oz, as well as many new ones. This time around, Dorothy (voiced by Glee's Lea Michele) returns to Oz to help face a new calamity. Expect some battles that may be scary for younger kids (especially in 3D) -- the flying monkeys are, as always, menacing, as is the central villain, the Jester, who essentially tortures the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man. Another character is gravely hurt after a skirmish, and Dorothy's Kansas home is shown as having sustained a lot of damage from the tornado that first took her to Oz. On the up side, there's no swearing (though words like "knucklehead" and "fool" are used), sex, drinking, or other iffy stuff.
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What's the story?
Dorothy (voiced by Lea Michele) is back in tornado-struck Kansas, but not for long: Her Oz friends -- the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the (no longer) Cowardly Lion (James Belushi), and the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) -- need her help. The brother of the Wicked Witch, called the Jester (Martin Short), has imprisoned Glinda (Bernadette Peters) and turned her into a marionette, taking the magic broomstick and all its powers with him. Now Dorothy must find her old friends (who have also fallen prey to the Jester's evil plans) with the help of new ones: Wiser the Owl (Oliver Platt), Marshall Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty), and Tugg the tugboat (Patrick Stewart). But it's no easy feat: The Jester is formidable, and the flying monkeys are angrier than ever.
Is it any good?
Like the edible wonders of Candy County, LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY RETURNS is sweet, and it means well. But will it achieve the icon status of its legendary predecessor? Not likely. For one thing, the story is a retread of the original, with Dorothy picking up a different motley crew on her way back to the Emerald City. For fans of the original Wizard of Oz, that will either feel like an homage or a decided lack of originality. And the songs aren't nearly as compelling or memorable, aside from a catchy duet sparked by the budding romance between Marshall Mallow and the China Princess. (As an aside, given how sarcastic and superficial she is, it's a puzzling flirtation, though she does ultimately become more pleasant.)
The sidekicks from the original story -- the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow -- aren't given much to work with, and we miss them, especially given the talented voice actors who portray them. But at least we get lots of Martin Short, who's fantastic. And the animation, while not up to Pixar standards, bathes the film in nostalgic glow. Keep expectations in check, and you'll enjoy the film for what it is: a harmless return to Oz.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return compares to the original Wizard of Oz. Is it as scary? Scarier? Why? How does the fact that this movie is animated (versus the original's live action) affect the impact of the more frightening scenes/creatures?
Dorothy makes new friends on this adventure. Are they similar to or different than the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion? What are the lessons she learns this time around? Are they different from the original?
Should some movies be left alone without a sequel? Or is it fun to see Dorothy's story continue?
- In theaters: May 9, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: August 26, 2014
- Cast: Hugh Dancy, Patrick Stewart, Lea Michele
- Directors: Dan St. Pierre, Will Finn
- Studio: Clarius Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some scary images and mild peril
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.