Movie Review: Oz The Great and Powerful (2013)

Posted: September 18, 2013 in Comedy, Drama, Romance
Tags: , , ,

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Oz (James Franco) is a carnival magician in Kansas, and a bit of a con-man.  He’s in love with a girl named Annie (Michelle Williams) who has been proposed to by another man.  After a seemingly successful levitation trick, a little girl in a wheelchair (Joey King) asks him if he can make her walk.  When he says he can’t the people of Kansas run him out on a rail, and he barely gets out of town on a hot air balloon.  The balloon is caught up in a tornado, and by the time Oz wakes up, he is ironically in a land called Oz, where he meets Theodora. (Mila Kunis)  Theodora tells Oz that he fulfills the prophecy of a great leader who comes from the sky to save the Land of Oz from disrepair.  Theodora and Oz fall in love instantly, and she happily introduces him to her sister, Evanora. (Rachel Weisz) Evanora shows Oz the castle in the Emerald City where Oz is to reside, and shows him a room full of gold.  All he has to do to get this gold is kill a witch in the Dark Forest.  Oz decides to go to the forest, with newfound friends Finley the flying monkey (Zack Braff) and China Girl. (Joey King) What does he find in the Dark Forest?

There  is one rule in movies or music, if you’re going to remake a movie or a song, it has to be better than the original.  Technically Oz, the Great And Powerful is not a remake of the Wizard of Oz, it’s a prequel, but the same rule should apply.  This movie isn’t better, it’s far worse than the original.  It borrows too much from the original, Oz is from Kansas, he get swept up in a tornado, and taken to Oz, where he meets most of the characters from the Wizard of Oz. The beginning of the film is even shot in black and white, just like the original, more of a cheap copy than homage.  There’s not only one clunky love story, there’s two to contend with, in what’s essentially a kids story.  Bad idea.  Oh and when it’s not borrowing from  the Wizard of Oz, it borrows from Snow White.  In its rush to try to make a stunning visual movie, Oz forgets some of the most endearing parts of the original story.  The original story was about believing in yourself, the Oz in the original had no powers at all, so all the magic came from inside Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, the phrase, the man behind the curtain, means a charlatan in today’s society, precisely because of the Wizard of Oz, this movie talks about redemption, but only pays lip service to it.

The acting is only so-so.  James Franco is ok, as Oz he tries to be witty and charming, he tries really hard, but this is a retread of a story and not really worth the effort.  Mila Kunis is overwrought as Theodora, all emotions all the time, crying, falling in love, it’s all too much.  Michelle Williams plays her character with such disinterest, it’s hard to care about what happens to her.  After starring in movies like Blue Valentine and My Week With Marilyn, this performance was a disappointment.  Only Rachel Weisz gets it right as Evanora, she is evil, but subtlety so, even seductive in some scenes.  It is a good performance in a movie populated by bland performances.

But what really disappointed me about this movie was the inordinate amount of special effects, and CGI.  This movie was overwhelmed by CGI, any ideas it may have put forward are drowned out by the numerous special effects. Two of the characters, China Doll and Finley are all CGI, all of Oz is CGI, what should have been an uplifting child’s tale becomes an inauthentic cyber-film, dazzling to the eye, but with an empty soul.  The movie is also much too long, and parts much too scary for little kids.

Oz the Great and Powerful, lost in a blizzard of special effects.

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