DIRECTORS: Will Finn and Dan St Pierre

VOICE CAST: Dan Akroyd, James Belushi, Kelsey Grammar, Lea Michele, Martin Short


RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

RATING: 1 star (out of 5)

Theresa Smith

THIS RETURN to the world of Oz is blandly inoffensive and lacking soul, heart or brains.

It starts off in Kansas, with Dorothy (voice of Lea Michele) waking up in her bed after her first trip to Oz and yet another twister in the “real” world. But this is not Dorothy from the 1939 Wizard of Oz film.

This story is loosely based on the adventure books by Roger Stanton Baum, the great-grandson of L Frank Baum. This Dorothy is a contemporary modern miss who is dismissive of the adults around her as stupid – which they are certainly painted as – though her surroundings are vague in terms of chronological setting.

Scarcely is Dorothy back in post-Tornado Kansas when she is whisked off to Oz, which is being menaced by the Jester (Martin Short), brother to the despatched Wicked Witch of the West.

As she travels towards the Emerald City on the yellow brick road Dorothy meets several characters who need a little bit of bolstering to be the best they can be and then everyone works together to save the day. If it sounds familiar, it should. This is basically the same story as The Wizard of Oz, with some additional scenery, like China Town and Candy County thrown in.

The interesting voice cast does not contribute much – they probably only provided voices and not a reference point for characters as has become de rigueur thanks to Kung Fu Panda and Cars. Characters are weakly drawn, visually and in terms of depiction.

Then there is also the strange question of how anything that is presented in 3D can be so 2-dimensional. Considering this is an animated film, the static backgrounds are really disappointing and there is no texture to speak of.

Computer-generated images do not have to be without depth – think How to Train Your Dragon or even the Tinker Bell movies – but these characters are as flat and lifeless as the background.

And then they start to sing. Yep, it’s a musical, too, complete with some random songs of the non-memorable variety.

Parents who think of movies as a suitable babysitter will feel comfortable popping their sprogs in front of this one. Tiny children might like this because it is easy to follow and safe, but as kids’ entertainment goes, this one fails to hit that magic mix of scary amazement that makes a hit.

There is no narrative tension – at no point is anyone going to get scared on behalf of the supposed heroine of the story or even begin to care about what happens. And the Jester? Most ridiculously unscary villain since Jim Carrey fondled a sceptre dressed in a green onesie in Batman Forever.

If you liked Justin and the Knights of Valour, you will like this.