Oz the Great and Powerful:
An uneven trip down nostalgia lane
ONE AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE STARS
This movie is rated PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language
Anytime Hollywood decides to do something new with a beloved film franchise, I get nervous. I get especially nervous when it’s one of the most celebrated and beloved films of all time, The Wizard of Oz. Trailers looked strong, and director Sam Raimi was an inspired choice to make the film, but sadly the movie falls really flat at times, and is ultimately pretty forgettable.
Oz the Great and Powerful serves as a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, and stars James Franco as Oz. The movie tells of how he ended up in Oz and came to be the great wizard of the emerald city.
The main issue with this movie is just how uneven it feels. Early on, it does a good job of replicating the original, but once they end up in Oz things feel all too much like a modern Hollywood blockbuster. You’re treated to a few eye popping special effects, only to get assaulted with a barrage of lackluster, out of place, dumb ones soon after. The movie is obsessed with delivering cheap 3D thrills, with creatures and objects flying directly out at the audience far too often. It really hurts the storytelling, and distracts terribly from the movie.
The uneven effects make it feel like two different effects studios worked on this movie. At times, the land of Oz is insanely gorgeous and awesome to behold. At others, it’s the fakest looking thing ever, and it looks as if the actors are in a cartoon landscape. It’s really jarring to see something amazing one second, only to get hit with something really awful the next, but the movie is like this throughout.
At first glance, Franco appeared to be another brilliant choice for the movie, but as he can sometimes do, he appears disinterested in this film. Then there is the trio of great actresses that play the witch sisters, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz. Again, it seems to be all star casting, but all of them overact the roles, prancing and cackling so much that you can’t wait for them to be off the screen.
In the end, this movie simply plays it too safe. Disney was likely afraid to upset those who loved the original, and thusly do nothing new, challenging, unique, or interesting in this prequel. It’s simply a cheap excuse to return people to Oz, because Disney knows it will make them money. It’s a shame to see a talented filmmaker like Raimi caught up in a film like this, as normally he’s the type to put artistry and storytelling above Hollywood interests.
People who dearly love the original Wizard of Oz will probably still enjoy this film, even if just for the nostalgia factor. But there’s no brilliance here, and none of the magic that made the original such a lasting movie gem.
This Weekend at the Theater
Three new movies will be arriving in theaters this weekend. First up is the action film Olympus has Fallen. Gerard Butler stars in this film about the White House getting taken over. Butler plays the action hero well, and trailers of him storming the White House and retaking it make this one look like it could be a fun action flick.
Next up is the romantic comedy Admission. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in this film about two worlds colliding, when Fey’s uptight Ivy League admissions officer crosses paths with the backwater Rudd. These roles have grown horribly stale for Rudd, who pulls them off with the charm of a corpse these days, but maybe adding Fey into the mix will make this one enjoyable.
The final new release of the weekend is the animated film The Croods. This movie is being done by the same people who made How to Train Your Dragon, which was insanely successful. It tells the story of a family of cavemen who have to escape to a new land and try to survive there.
Releasing on home video this week is The Hobbit, Les Miserables, This is 40, and Zero Dark Thirty.