Oz: The Great and Powerful Review
The 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" is clearly a classic. It's a film that I love very much, it works every time I sit down to watch it. Its a movie I began to like when I was very young and it carried over into my adulthood. As I grew up, I wondered just how all of these Oz characters came to like or dislike each other. And how Dorothy got all caught up in the mix. In 2013, Disney created a prequel story about how Oz became the wizard he is and how a group of witches became either good or evil.
Sadly, for the most part, "Oz: The Great and Powerful" is neither great nor powerful.
First lets talk about the good stuff. Peter Deming's cinematography is lush and beautiful. After all the "Lord of the Rings" and "Avatars" we expect a certain degree of class with our special effects. The film is not lacking in that department and is a visual feast. Rachel Weisz is great as the Evanora, and she'll be great again. Equally good in their role is Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good. The opening credits sequence is cool and nostalgic. And the little aspects which remind us of the 1939 film (i.e. going from black and white to color, and all the easter eggs in between) made me smile.
However, the film doesn't have much more going for it. The story is fairly straightforward. Oscar aka "Oz" is ambitious yet poor and failing magician in a traveling circus. He wants to be the best magician he can but he keeps coming up short. Not only he not too hot in the magical world but also in the world of girls. As a jealous boyfriend chases him into a hot air balloon, Oz is off and running into a tornado. He appears in the world of Oz, where a prophecy states that a wizard that shares the name of the realm will defeat the evil witch and restore order in the world.
Like I said its a pretty easy story to get right, and definitely something that can appeal to both children and adults. Another thing the film does well is directing this story towards the whole family. The only sad part is the movie as whole is not interesting at all. The script by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire is painfully written and doesn't feature a single neat idea or memorable line. Most of the dialogue is rather laughable to listen to.
This film was directed by Sam Raimi who directed the first Spiderman franchise, a franchise which also featured James Franco. After seeing all three movies in Raimi's Spiderman franchise as well as his "Oz" movie, its clear that Franco is only successful under proper direction. Franco's performance falls pretty flat the entire running time. It's too bad because I know what Franco is capable of it just seems like Raimi can't show us that capability. It's a huge disappointment for lead role in a major fantasy vehicle. Mila Kunis feels drastically miscast as Thedora, who's big revelations I dare not reveal. All I will say is the performance overall isn't worth much discussion.
There are also small decisions made in this film which don't make a lot of sense. Not only does Michelle Williams play Glinda the Good, but also a Kansas girl Oz had a crush on before leaving on his balloon. Zach Braff plays Oz's assistant in Kansas then delivers the voice of a small monkey who befriends Oz. The parallels of each universe are never explained so it just comes off puzzling. The legendary "gifts" that Oz gives his friends at the end of the film are so incredibly weird that my girlfriend and her friends snickered as they were announced. All of these characteristics make "Great and Powerful" a film experience which is memorable for all the wrong reasons.
For a guy that directed both the "Evil Dead" and "Spiderman" series of films, "Oz: The Great and Powerful" is a wrongheaded disappointment. I only hope Disney lets this one go for a while, and consider never letting it resurface. After the live-action debutes of both "Alice in Wonderland" and now "Oz," I don't have a lot of faith in the "Cinderella" movie and perhaps Disney should think about leaving their classics alone.
FINAL GRADE: C