Review: Oz: The Great And Powerful

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There are few directors that could be given $200 million by Disney to recreate the feel of a classic movie. Actually they gave Joseph Kosinski that to make Tron: Legacy, so maybe that money amount doesn’t mean what it used to. Sam Raimi is one of those directors that should be entrusted with that and it shows through in Oz: The Great and Powerful. Every penny is apparent on screen and even if the script or performances don’t break any new ground, it is a visual treat that should be enjoyed by anyone who remebers The Wizard of Oz fondly from their childhood.

If you are reading this review then I am assuming you have seen the classic film at least once and know the breakdown of what went on. Oz: The Great and Powerful begins much like Dorothy’s tale, in black and white. Oscar Riggs (James Franco) is a two bit magician in a traveling circus who has aspirations of great fame and wealth. He makes a quick escape from a strongman with a broken hearted sister in a hot aired balloon just as a tornado hits and he is whisked away to the colorful world of Oz. He soon meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), who tells him that he is the great wizard that the land of Oz has been waiting for to free them from the evils of the wicked witch.

Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is in the Emerald City and does not believe so quickly that this stranger is who he says he is. Little known to everyone in Oz, Evanora is, in actuality, the wicked witch and has framed her sister Glinda (Michelle Williams) for killing their father. She convinces Oscar to hunt down and destroy Glinda so she can have Oz all to herself. Evanora uses her sister’s feelings for Oscar to transform her into the true wicked with that we all remember from the classic tale. And yet with all the green makeup and weird facial features Mila Kunis is still hot. I would just have to act like I was Capt. Kirk and have some fun times with a green chick, but maybe that is just me.

Oscar ends up learning the truth and teams with Glinda and the citizens of Oz to battle the two evil witches. Which of course means a battle at then end of the movie. Like Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Jack the Giant Slayer, it must end in a big fight at then end with sneaking and misdirection winning the day. It does feel a bit familiar. But not so much that it detracts from the overall feel of the movie.

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Oz does hit a stretch at the beginning of the third act that makes you think they were simply trying to extend runtime and show as much pretty on the screen as they could. It really could have used about twenty minutes trimmed off of the length and things would have moved along at a much smoother pace.

Make no mistake, this movie is pretty. Sam Raimi is a very visual director and it shines through when you watch Oz. There were some scenes that I can only imagine how headache inducing the 3D would have been. All the childhood remembrances are there. The yellow brick road, the emerald castle, the poppy fields and yes, flying monkeys that should easily scare the sh** out of your child.

There is no way not to watch this and not compare it to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland with one exception, I believe Oz holds up a bit better. That is to say that the performances in Alice (anchored by Johnny Depp) were superior to this, but the inner child hiding underneath all this bearded fury is more connected to the land of Oz from all the multiple viewings of The Wizard of Oz than Alice’s adventure. The look and familiarity of the world is much easier for me to connect with. Some people are cheshire cat people and some are munchkin all the way and I do love some midgets.

Look, if you are expecting Oz to be a movie that you remember ten years from now then you may be in for disappointment. Go into this with no expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised by it. It looks stunning on the big screen and while the main characters won’t exactly win any awards, all of the look, feel and imagination of the land of Oz is still there.

Like I said, it’s all familiar and sometimes that is not a bad thing.


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