We review ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’
By Jacki Mameli, Contributor
Hollywood is filled with sequels and prequels, with the latest being Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel to the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Sam Raimi directs a cast of big names in an effort to entice filmgoers to follow the yellow brick road once again.
The beginning of the film has a great vintage movie feel. Oscar Diggs (James Franco), known as Oz, is a small-time fairground conman posing as a magician in dusty black and white Kansas (these opening scenes set him up as a womanizer with dubious ethics). During his escape from an angry strongman, his hot air balloon is whisked away by one of those pesky Kansas tornados.
He tumbles from the monochromatic opening to the candy-coloured Land of Oz via some stomach-dropping 3D effects. He meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a beautiful witch, who greets him as the great Wizard that is prophesied to arrive and save the good people of Oz from the reign of the Wicked Witch. Oscar’s motives are less than honourable when he let’s Theodora believe he is Oz’s saviour.
Enter Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora’s sister, who convinces Oscar to journey to the dark forest and defeat the Wicked Witch. Every movie needs a good sidekick, and Oscar has Finley, a smallish flying monkey dressed inexplicably like a bellhop. Voiced by Zach Braff, Finley comes dangerously close to stealing the show, as he gets some of the best lines. Oscar and Finley save a china doll from the shards of her destroyed home, and together they go after the Wicked Witch. The trio soon comes across the beautiful and good witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams), and she implores Oscar to help her people, including the requisite munchkins. Will Oscar be the “good man” he wishes he were and save Oz?
I was disappointed by Franco’s slightly awkward portrayal of Oscar Diggs. His boyish grin and good looks don’t overcome a seeming lack of commitment to the character. It’s the witches of Oz that make the movie interesting. Kunis and Weisz keep us guessing about their motives until well into the movie. Williams is a lovely and sweet Glinda, all the while manipulating the unwitting Oscar. At a particularly difficult point in their fight against the Wicked Witch, she tells a discouraged Oscar, “If this was easy, we wouldn’t need a wizard, would we?”
Visual effects like giant flowers blooming and vicious flying baboons are vividly over the top, and they feel pleasantly reminiscent of the cartoon-like effects in the original movie. At two hours and 10 minutes though, the movie runs a little long, but there are worse ways to spend a Friday afternoon.