“There’s no place like home.” The original ‘Wizard of Oz’ starring the doe-eyed Judy Garland is a revered childhood classic. How do you remake an iconic movie? You don’t. No doubt about it, Sam Raimi is a great director. Raimi is best known for his work on the Spider-Man franchise but hardcore cinephiles will remember him from his ‘Evil Dead’ days. It is amazing that this film project was ever made. A recent interview with screenwriter Mitchell Kapner reveals that Warner Bros. Pictures prevented them from using a lot of details from the original such as the ruby slippers. That’s okay since this story is about the wizard’s journey and not Dorothy’s.
The story is fairly straightforward. It tells how the Land of Oz got their man behind the curtain. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) works as a struggling carnival magician who has ambitions of being a mix between the next Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison. When his sweetheart Annie (Michelle Williams) visits him, we realize Oz has commitment issues. He tells her, “Kansas is full of good men,” then adds, “I don’t want to be a good man; I want to be a great one.” Almost instantly, a tornado sweeps him up in a hot air balloon from the dusty plains of Kansas to the colorful world of Oz. The beautiful visuals are captivating.
As soon as the balloon crash lands into a pond, Oz meets the first witch Theodora (Mila Kunis). Fashionably dressed and seductive, Oz puts his moves on her. Soon after, Oz meets Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), the good witch. All three actresses deliver solid performances. Oz is the reluctant hero who must save the world from the clutches of the Wicked Witch. However, the standout performances come from Zach Braff as Finley the Flying Monkey and Joey King as China Girl. They both have the funniest lines in the movie. Braff is best known for his role on the television show ‘Scrubs’ and his charming romantic comedy, ‘Garden State.’ This role shows off his exceptional comedic timing.
Hands down, the best character in the movie goes to the sassy porcelain miniature China Girl. It is true movie magic watching this endearing little cutie come to life. The scenes between her and Oz are moving. This is when the film hits you emotionally. When it steers away from all the CGI special effects and focuses more on the heart and soul of the characters. It’s a pivotal role and the teen actress Joey King nails it. Earlier in the black and white portion of the film, she appears at Oz’s magic show as a girl in a wheelchair. Oz meets her and others along his journey to teach him some valuable life lessons. Raimi keeps the story well-paced throughout these poignant moments in the film.
It is pleasant to walk down the Yellow Brick Road again and see some familiar characters like the munchkins. Some will be disappointed not to see The Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow or Toto but remember this movie is for kids who won’t care about the 1939 classic. In the movie theatre, I saw a little girl with her parents stand up, applaud and giggle during this new adventure. Believe me; kids under the age of 12 will eat this movie up. In my opinion, it is better than last year’s ‘The Hobbit’ or even ‘Snow White’ for that matter. ‘Oz’ is an entertaining film for the whole family.
‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ is now playing at Edwards Boise 22 Stadium, Edwards BoDo Stadium 9 and Majestic Cinemas – Meridian.