Few films have been loved as much over time as the classic “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s known for its timeless magic and likeable characters. Released on Mar. 8, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a prequel to the beloved family film standard, but it does not have the sparkle and innocence of its predecessor.
Oz (James Franco) is a magician in Kansas conning people out of their last nickels. When one of the many women he’s charmed gets him in trouble, Oz flees into a hot air balloon with the help of his assistant (Zach Braff). Taken down by a tornado, Oz finds himself in the land of Oz and is escorted by the quickly smitten Theodora (Mila Kunis). The people of the area believe he has come to defeat the Wicked Witch to fulfill a prophecy, and Oz slyly agrees to help due to his greed. But things get complicated as Oz finds himself immersed in a battle between three witches: Glinda (Michelle Williams), Theodora, and Evanora (Rachel Weisz). With only a China Girl (Joey King) and a flying monkey (Zach Braff) to aid him, Oz learns that he has more power than he thought.
There are many flaws and holes in the story if you think too much about its events. What is very present is a mash-up of some popular fantasy stories, which doesn’t feel very original when it’s supposed to be a re-imagined prequel. Part “Snow White,” part “Alice in Wonderland,” and many attempts to connect it to “The Wizard of Oz” just make “Oz the Great and Powerful” feel like a Xeroxed copy of better works.
Most audiences, especially those that enjoyed Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” will enjoy the explosion of special effects and 3-D, but I found them gimmicky and cheap. The special effects feel especially artificial and less magical than the classic, despite the classic’s noticeably fake sets. Though much of the look is beautiful, it is glaringly bright. Director Sam Raimi overuses the 3-D effects with his cheap horror thrills and even turns some scenes more creepy than necessary (and less family friendly for young children).
The acting in “Oz the Great and Powerful” is the best and worst feature of the film. Mila Kunis and James Franco are poorly cast; Franco is not nearly charming enough to root for and Kunis is absolutely terrible, ruining the character that Margaret Hamilton made perfect. Luckily, however, Michelle Williams brings back her Monroe sweetness, finding a comfortable place in-between Judy Garland and Billie Burke (the original Glinda).
For those that enjoy a spectacle, “Oz the Great and Powerful” offers some thrills. But if you tend to see too much behind the curtain, “Oz” is all tricks with no power.
Rating for “Oz the Great and Powerful:” C-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” is playing in IMAX 3-D at AMC Lennox and Easton in Columbus, though I’d advise against taking young children to the 3-D. For showtimes, click here.