Another “Wizard of Oz” spin-off? Really? We’ve all heard that song and seen that dance. Who knew that a director with a background in superhero and horror movies combined with arguably risqué actors likes James Franco and Mila Kunis could actually deliver this kind of film? Definitely not me.
While skeptical at first, the more I read and watched about the making of “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” the more I found myself becoming more curious with each word and trailer. I cursed my inquisitive nature as I dropped a whopping $5 on discount night at the theater to satisfy my interests.
I appreciate the value of a well-told story, being a story-teller myself. Fantasy, if done well, can truly bring someone out of reality. Sam Raimi twists the classic Land of Oz in ways that haven’t been done before, surprisingly well.
I enjoy the side of the man that becomes the Wonderful Wizard that had never been shown before, while reveling in the intentional parallels of the 1939 classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” However, the story is weaker than I expected. While the first black-and-white Kansas scenes of the movie are entertaining and informative, the rest is fluffed up with nonsense.
It begins to head downhill when Kunis, as an innocent witch, Theodora, appears on screen. It was as if she plays a naive 4-year old with a temper tantrum problem. Franco is great, but I feel like he has it in him to execute Oz better. Zach Braff as Finley the sarcastic monkey, Michelle Williams as Glinda the good witch, Rachel Weisz as the strikingly evil Evanora and Joey King as the innocent, sassy china doll together carry the movie more so than the lead roles do.
The visual effects absolutely blow my mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if this stuff won awards. Within seconds of the old-style credits, the audience is mesmerized. Once I get past the obvious “made-for-3D” shots, the effects make me want to fly into a tornado in a hot air balloon to Raimi’s phenomenal dream-world of Oz.
Despite all the possible adventures that I could have, if I were to run into Mila Kunis’ giant eyes and James Franco’s weird facial hair, I’d sprint the other direction. Sorry, guys, I’d rather play with Braff as the flying monkey than deal with whatever predictable drama that Franco’s Oz and Kunis’ Theodora were dealing with.
The best parts of “Oz” are the small, thoughtful details and Danny Elfman’s soundtrack, which is wonderful as expected. The costumes, scenery, music and occasional one-liners give this film potential to be as epic as it was advertised – but the casting and weak plot development took this from being great movie to average one.