When “Oz the Great and Powerful” came out last year there was no mistaking the critical apathy — and, some might argue, the cultural shrug — flashy highlights and healthy grosses notwithstanding. And that was with Disney and Sam Raimi behind it. Now, barely a year later, a generic film consortium brings us “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return,” a 3-D animated musical sequel to “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s based on a book by “Oz” creator L. Frank Baum’s great-grandson, with songs by Bryan Adams. (Nostalgia for Judy Garland show tunes, ’80s guitar ballads . . . same diff, right?) The enterprise, while gently reverent, looks and feels as shaky as it sounds, tonally as flat as Kansas farmland. This is mythology that’s famously transportive in every sense, but the animators struggle to take us anywhere truly captivating, or even clearly defined.
The story casually shifts the action to the present, with Dorothy (Lea Michele, “Glee”) waking from her “Wizard of Oz” adventure and taking stock of her tornado-devastated home. Enter a hustling appraiser (Martin Short, frenetically working his undercooked Margaret Hamilton gig), who’s convolutedly condemning farmhouses all over town. (A claim-denying insurance weasel might have made more sense.) No time to dwell on evictions, though, because trouble is brewing back in the Emerald City for Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer), and Lion (Jim Belushi). Employing his newfound braininess, Scarecrow dispatches a niftily rendered, rainbow-style tractor beam to whisk Dorothy back for help.