“You have nothing to fear so long as you believe. For when you believe, anything is possible.”
You may think New York, London, Chicago, or Los Angeles is where you should go to fulfill your purpose. But, in actuality, Oz is the place to go to find the life you could not realize in Kansas.
Kansas itself is a metaphor for hardship, dissatisfaction, and strife. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) knows better than anyone how dry the land is and how perfectly his life mirrors its desiccation. A circus magician, Oscar suffers from that first ranked fear of following in his father’s footsteps and yearns for greatness. “My father spent his whole life tilling the dirt just to die face down in it.”
As always when living in fear, Oscar becomes the very thing he’s running from: a shell of a man who doesn’t see his gifts, who doesn’t appreciate his gifts, or just doesn’t care about them. He cheats his friends and takes advantage of the women who will him their hearts.
Unlike Dorothy’s trip to Oz which served as a living reflection of her struggles to teach her lessons, the Land of Oz is a consequence for Oscar Diggs.
Set in a black-and-white Kansas in 1905, Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi, is soon hit by darkness and chaos. That dry Kansas dirt is swept into a terrible tornado, reaching to an unforgiving sky, Oscar and his hot air swirling in its debris.
But alas, prayers are answered and those prayers are banked on Oscar’s potential and his solemn promise. Pending survival he vows to become a better man, he guarantees to meet his greatness.
On the other side of his promise is the prophecy to the Good People of Oz that a savior will come and free them from the Wicked Witch. Together that promise and prophecy will show Oscar who he is meant to be.
Humorous, a little frightening at times, and wildly entertaining, “Oz the Great and Powerful” searches deep within the mystical coffers and discovers a fresh story in a classic tale. It proves to be timely and surprisingly profound.
Exploring matters of love & deceit, the movie shows how our broken hearts break the hearts around us, weaving a system of hurt, especially for the woman scorn as she becomes exactly what the heartbreaker makes of her. This movie is a warning against living the pain.
The movie is almost perfect save for a few downfalls. Even though they make exciting use of the 3D format, there are moments when it is dizzying.
Also there is a nagging feeling while watching the film that, though it is colorful, breathtaking, and electrifying something just isn’t right. It doesn’t quite touch the heart like it longs to. I’ll tell you what it is. “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a little short on chemistry.
Mila Kunis makes a decent turn as Theodora and owns the most important transformation in the film. Yet for all her striking beauty, which is central to her character, she is out of place in the fantastic, adrift in the magical.
Rachel Weisz has the most chemistry with her character and the Land of Oz, though none of them really fit in to all the color and highly dramatic visuals. Weisz seems as if she is Evanora body & soul and feels most like she belongs in Oz.
Michelle Williams as Glinda appears to understand best that a movie like this is not all elaborate costumes and CGI, but that the fairy tale must be internalized.
The witches are as important as The Wizard, if not more so. However, though their delivery of lines and execution of blocking are fine, owning the world and becoming the fairy tale isn’t fully grasped.
An audience must believe. We must believe in hot air balloons that travel to alternate dimensions, talking monkeys, flying baboons, wicked witches, and good Glinda kisses. That’s what we’ve come for. But we can’t believe if the movie’s stars do not.
Finley the Flying Monkey (Zach Braff), and sidekick to Oz, delivers some of the movie’s heartiest humor and most touching moments. Without him and the China Girl (Joey King) Oz would be nothing and so would this film.
It’s hard to expect anything from Franco as The Wizard given his many past portrayals where the story was more impressive than his delivery, but rest assured he is victorious as Oz and he anchors the film, his performance nimble and appropriate as he illuminates Oscar’s yellow bricked journey to greatness.
It takes a kind face creased with laugh lines and glinting eyes to straddle that thin strip between kid humor and adult fanfare without falling over and also to preserve the charm and likability of a smarmy smooth talker. From scene to scene Franco is light on his feet, gliding between quips and using that face for all its worth.
A tale wrought with the old faithfuls -- fear, broken promises, broken dreams, a quest for greatness and a good chick fight here and there, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a stunning show of hearts in motion, teaching that ours beat best when we believe.
But more than a story about belief it is a true Oz lesson and we glimpse that quality in us which is better than greatness.
Ease on down to your favorite theater. This movie is a wickedly resplendent return to the Emerald City and will be enjoyed by young and old.
Check local listings for showtimes.