The latest family fantasy incarnation is a cynical cash-grab riding on the coat-tails of far better productions
The Kingdom of Oz is a complicated one from a copyright point of view; while the rights to many of L Frank Baum's books and characters have expired, many of the details of the 1939 MGM film remain tightly controlled by studio lawyers. So without any mention of ruby red slippers, the expanding pile of Oz related films, books and theatre ranges from the dour Return to Oz to the popular book and stage-show of Wicked, Sam Raimi's lumpy 2013 reboot Oz the Great and Powerful and now this sickly sweet animation. Ex-Disney staffers Will Finn and Dan St Pierre direct, but Legends of Oz doesn't have the rekindled Disney magic of Frozen, with a slew of forgettable Bryan Adams tunes cheerlessly adorning the soundtrack.
Safely returned to her Kansas home, Dorothy (Lea Michele) finds herself once more transported back to Oz on a mission to save the Emerald City, not from a witch, but from the evil Jester, voiced by Martin Short. The Jester has imprisoned Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Cowardly Lion (James Belushi) and the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer), so Dorothy has to enlist a new and inferior set of companions for another trip along the yellow brick road, including a giant owl Wiser (Oliver Platt) and martinet Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy).
Despite an expansive, if somewhat out-dated cast including Patrick Stewart and Brian Blessed, Legends of Oz is a deeply impoverished relative of all previous Oz films, with cheap-looking animation, lazy-voice work, grimly obvious humour and a dreary, two-dimensional story; significant elements such as rainbows or flying monkeys go for nothing, and the nostalgia factor of seeing familiar characters again is quickly dissipated by their perfunctory handing. Kids may love Oz, but not the way it's handled here, a cynical cash-grab riding on the coat-tails of far better productions.
General release from Fri 23 May.