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Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return

(U)

    Growing up in the glow of a famous relative has its plusses and minuses. For Roger Baum, the great-grandson of Wizard of Oz creator L Frank Baum, there was the joy of being part of the legacy, but also the constant niggling in his own head (and nagging from friends) that he should write a book that picks up the story.

    Encouraged by the fact that there are still millions of enthusiastic Oz fans worldwide, Baum got past his initial misgivings and wrote Dorothy of Oz in 1989 and that book has now been made into an animated film.

    Of course there has been baying about jumping on the bandwagon by critics who have been less than kind, but to my mind there's nothing wrong with nepotism if it gets us back to Oz, as it's a great place for little children to grow up.

    I grew up there - happily skipping around my grandma's front room to the original score - and now there's a new Emerald City soundtrack with songs co-penned by Bryan Adams that will rock those ruby slippers. Can the songs compete with the likes of Somewhere over the Rainbow? Obviously not, but they are not trying to.

    What I like about this film is that it displays affectionate reverence for the 1939 original while introducing new characters. Set in modern times, the familiar faces are of course Dorothy - voiced by Glee's Lea Michele (whom my Gleester daughter adores) - Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and the Lion (Jim Belushi). Bet you didn't expect to see those guys lending their vocals. It is in fact the scarecrow who calls Dorothy back to Oz, which is once again being terrorised.

    But in the absence of witches East and West, there is a wicked jester (Martin Short) who is turning the Oz leaders into marionettes. There are other new characters, notably a big fat owl called Wiser (Oliver Platt) who unbelievably can still fly, the heroic Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy) and an ancient tree called Tugg, who has gravitas thanks to Patrick Stewart's earthy tones.

    With Smash's Megan Hilty as a China princess and Bernadette Peters as good witch Glinda, this film has an ensemble cast to rival anything on Broadway. As there are never enough films for children on general release, one as bright and cheery as Legends of Oz deserves to be seen, particularly as it is being distributed by my cousin Mark. Well, if nepotism works for Baum...

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