Oz the Great and Powerful

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James Franco and Michelle Williams have a little bit of chemistry.










You’re off to see this Oz/the wonderful, great and powerful.

You’ll bring a date, for 3-D and Imax, the high going rate…

Because, because, because, because, because, because because…

It’s the thing the studio does, when they can call it a prequel!

I wonder how they can call it a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Wasn’t that all a big dream? (was a “spoiler alert” needed there?).

You can make a prequel to Star Wars, and tell us what the characters were like years earlier, but not a dream.

Director Sam Raimi brought along James Franco from his Spider Man films, to play Oz, who we meet as a carnival huckster. Those first 20 minutes at the carnival (including the opening credits), contained some dazzling visuals. I got excited, thinking I’d be seeing another Hugo. Somebody hit me on the head for being so optimistic.

Oz gets swept up by a tornado, just before the strongman does a number on him (hey, that’s what happens when ya mess with the bearded lady).

Just like in the original Wizard of Oz, we see the same characters from the carnival at the land of Oz. Zach Braff goes from being his helper, to being a talking monkey. The adorable china girl was a girl in a wheelchair watching his magic show. Michelle Williams was his love interest who was on the verge of marrying somebody else.

The three actors just mentioned were all great. Franco reminded me of a young Paul Newman (think The Sting), but since I was already thinking of Tim Burton because of the picture (including the Danny Elfman score), I couldn’t help but think how much more fun the movie would’ve been with Johnny Depp in the lead role.

The movie goes into color once Oz lands in his appropriately named land, and they tried really hard to create the magic we got with the flowers in Avatar. It made the 3-D more interesting, but I thought they went a little over the top with it and the digital landscapes just didn’t impress. There was nothing interesting about the little fairies biting him as he stumbles out of the water, and meets Mila Kunis. She’s thrilled the wizard has arrived, and a romance starts to blossom. The problem is – we watched Oz seducing various women earlier in the movie. Are we supposed to root for him now? Especially when he pulls the same stunts he did with the women working the Tilt-a-Whirl. And the more we watch the Kunis character, the more I started thinking she was miscast. Thinking of her past roles – Black Swan, Ted, even That 70s Show – this might be the only thing I haven’t liked her in. Since Helena Bonham Carter was the only thing I liked about the last Alice in Wonderland, I thought about how juicy she would’ve played the nice witch.

Her sister Evanora is the evil one. She’s played wonderfully devilish by Rachel Weisz; then comes about an hour in the middle of this movie that just dragged. You’d occasionally meet an interesting character or munchkin, but more often than not you’re just bored. We were constantly being told the town has “got to believe” in the wizard, whether he’s real or not. We see the bad witch plotting, and the monkey occasionally throwing us some comic relief.

I enjoyed all the little nods to the original movie. Something fun about catching them as they pop up…but something else popped up. The more Oz changes from the con man he was, to a guy that cares about the people in the land of Oz, I thought about the original. Didn’t Dorothy discover that the man behind the curtain was a big fraud? He was hardly a hero. So, this isn’t really a prequel at all. Or perhaps Oz becomes great, and then becomes a con man again. Maybe they’ll do another Oz film, and have a Jar Jar Binks character dancing down the yellow brick road.

You will probably enjoy that place it takes you to more than I did. You can bring the family (the kids should be over 10, as there are some scary moments).

The movie had a little Fantasia in it, an apple from Snow White, and a brain. It just didn’t have a heart. These characters should be melting your heart and they really don’t. That makes the whole thing a bit unnecessary and a disappointment for me. It probably also disappointed Tim Burton, who has had his style of filmmaking jacked in Jack the Giant Slayer and now Oz.

It gets 2 ½ stars out of 5.

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