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Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Walt Disney Pictures: James Franco and Zach Braff in "Oz the Great and Powerful"Nearly everyone who’s been alive since the early 20th century has probably heard the story of Dorothy and her journey through the wonderful land of Oz with the hopes of finding the Wizard in order to return her home. As generations pass by, this epic story has been told through multiple facets and has also contained an unearthly amount of sequels. Since we’ve had all of that, what about a prequel? I guess that’s what the people at Walt Disney were thinking, and that’s why we have Oz the Great and Powerful.

Instead of casting its eye on Dorothy or any of the existing properties that have been previously created concerning the land of Oz, the story in Oz the Great and Powerful is a fresh one that gives the spotlight to Oscar Diggs (James Franco) and lets the viewers know who he is and how he became what we all remember him to be. Diggs is a magician who makes his living plying his trade as a part of a traveling circus. The latest stop for he and the other co-workers employed in the spectacle is in Kansas.

As Oz the Great and Powerful begins preparing for his latest act for a crowd awaiting his arrival to the stage, we, the movie audience are given an opportunity to see who he is and what makes him tick.  First off, we see that this self-described con man has what one would call “questionable ethics.” As he’s in the dressing room getting prepared, we also see that he’s making sure that his frustrations about his standing in life on and off of the circus grounds are being heard. He wants more and believes that he deserves more than what he has at the current time. He doesn’t want a normal life, he wants and dreams of a spectacular one.

His lack of success and opportunity doesn’t prevent the man from giving it his all when he stands before the audience that sits down expecting to see a show that they’ve never witnessed before. This is a big part of who he is and represents his abilities and his financial earnings that he gets. However, as hard as he tries, even that changes when the unfortunate magician with no luck runs into a tight spot. In front of the legions of spectators, he’s puts himself to shame with  truly dreadful response once he’s tested and can’t deliver the goods that some members of the audience were anticipating.

This and a few other things are shown to be obstacles that a magician’s sleight of hand is unable to make disappear. Because of his more recent negative predicaments, Oscar finds himself in deep trouble with multiple people who seem to want his head. As he attempts to avoid them, he somehow ends up in a weird place that he’s never been to. This place looks somewhat familiar, but the are some things that are distinctly foreign from what he’s seen in his life. He’s seeing things like tall flowers, brilliantly lit butterflies and even something called river fairies.

Here is a place where not only are there objects that he’ll likely never lay his eyes on in a place like Kansas, Oscar also comes face to face with a woman who openly states to being a witch when he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis). The young, wide-eyed witch with real powers finds Oscar alone and looking quite lost. Her intuition tells her that this man who she’s never seen before is the one that the prophecies speaks of when talking about a wizard who would save the people of Oz from the dark cloud that hangs over their head.

Seeing this as a chance to get everything he’s ever wanted, Diggs goes along with her way of thinking and claims to be the sorcerer of great power that the prophecies speak of. After doing his best to convince her of his powers, the so-called wizard meets several inhabitants who make the Land of Oz their permanent place of residence. The man who’s always referred to himself as Oz soaks this all up as it feeds his ego and gives him the attention and admiration that he’s always wanted. Seeing as he might inherit the throne as ruler of Oz, he’ll so walk into immediate fortune once he’s chosen as the savior.

With all that he’s ever wanted staring him right in his face, the man of many names still has work to do. Although Theodora  is beginning to believe that he may be the chosen one, there’s also Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), two other witches who have suspicions of their own when it comes to the man claiming to be the wonderful wizard of Oz. With those suspicions intact, the two witches on opposite sides of the fence attempt to uncover the truth behind Oscar’s claims before he is handed the “keys” as ruler of the land. Finding out the truth is an imperative matter for the inhabitants of Oz and the three witches, because they don’t want a fraud in the chair and there is evil lurking in the darkness.

All three witches claim to be good, while pointing the finger at another as being evil. If it’s determined that Oscar truly is “Oz The Great and Powerful,” he’ll want the good witch on his side when the time comes. That’s because in order to keep the admiration and gain the enormous amounts of wealth that’s right in front of him, he’ll need prove his worth and successfully defend the Land of Oz against the evil that’s waiting to strike and spark an epic battle for supremacy. This journey could lead him to all that he desires, but it can also lead him into becoming a better man.

Oz the Great and Powerful features a story that contains a little bit of everything that one could hope for in a film of this genre. There’s a plot filled with mystery, energetic characters and some comedy that’s surely of good quality. You’re not going to experience anything groundbreaking in this film, but people will have an opportunity to be entertained throughout its entirety. It’s a kid friendly flick that’s fun and comfortably fits inside the existing universe that’s been widely-known around the world for over one hundred years.

With all of the positive qualities in Oz the Great and Powerful, I have to say that the acting is something that I feel the need to acknowledge on its own. For the most part, it’s sound and delivers the proper amount of charm and punch to the film’s overall animated spirit successfully. With the exception of Mila Kunis, each one of the actors appear to his the right note no matter what they are asked to do. Films can always benefit from proper casting and this movie is no exception. This cast (even Kunis) hits far more than they miss.

For the sake of not adding spoilers, I won’t divulge much when describing the faults that exist in Mila Kunis’ performance. All I’ll say is that she isn’t bad in any way in her early scenes, but things don’t go as well for her once more emotion is needed from her. Many may overlook this portion of the movie, and she may do the job for its audience when it’s all said and done. I think that can especially be said for anyone who’s completely engaged with what they’re watching and taking everything else into account.

The star in Oz the Great and Powerful is without a doubt James Franco. His performance helps to embody the personality that much of the film takes on and it also made me more interested in seeing what else he can do in front of the camera. It’s clear that he’s engaging and confident in what he’s doing here, and that helps lead to an enjoyable movie for the family as he doesn’t appear to lack in any areas here. Too bad I can’t say the same about the 3D. It starts extremely well, but it’s not as strong as everything moves along.

With all of the remakes, sequels, prequels and other material based off of existing properties these days flowing out of Hollywood, it’s good to see something that is at least made interesting and is somewhat original since they didn’t completely rely on the actual story that’s already been told. As I said, there’s nothing groundbreaking or amazing here, but it can serve as a nice movie that parents can enjoy with their children. If that’s what you’re looking for, Oz the Great and Powerful just might fit the bill.

Score: 3/5

Rating: PG

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast:
James Franco
Mila Kunis
Rachel Weisz
Michelle Williams
Zach Braff
Bill Cobbs
Joey King
Abigail Spencer
Ted Raimi
Bruce Campbell

Film Length: 130 minutes

Release Date: March 8, 2013

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

2 comments

  1. I found this film to be sadly pretty average on the whole. I did enjoy the opening sequences and there were a few bright spots while in Oz. However, a lot of the film just did not work for me. On the other hand my four year-old loved it and I think that might have sort of been the point of this film.

    • It wasn’t spectacular or anything, but I think it was good as a kid/family flick. It seems like something they would like a lot.

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