Oz the Great and Powerful Review: Stick With Wicked

Photo Credit: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/oz-great-powerful-earns-2-426875

Neither great nor powerful, this prequel fails to live up to the original with clunky dialogue and poor acting throughout.

Not unlike Tim Burton’s recreation of Alice in Wonderland, Sam Raimi’s recreation of the world of Oz doesn’t recapture the magic that the original boasted. Instead it just lays a CGI coat on the world we once loved and calls it new.

As a prequel, it works fairly well, directly setting us up for The Wizard of Oz. We start out in black and white 1905 Kansas with Oz (James Franco) performing cheap magic tricks with a traveling circus. He’s a womanizing, cocky, self-involved man, not the great one he claims he wants to be. But he soon gets swept up in a tornado, just as Dorothy did, and brought to the magical land of Oz.

Color fills the screen and we are introduced to this almost entirely CGI world, some of which is convincing, and some far from it. Oz meets Theadora the “Good Witch” (Mila Kunis), who tells him about a prophecy (because every damn thing needs a prophecy now) he is meant to fulfill. The other two witches (Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams) become pivotal, as a does a stray flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) and a little doll made of china (Joey King).

With so many colorful characters, you’d think a few of them would perhaps by accident be written interestingly. The only one who comes close to this is Theadora, which makes it too bad that Kunis is just wrongly cast here. She can’t deliver an evil cackle anymore than Liam Neeson could.

Franco seems like the wrong man for the job too. I don’t think this movie was ironic enough for him.

The two CGI creations of the monkey and the doll actually have more life than much of the real actors. Braff in particular delivers his lines with the same humor he brought to Scrubs for all those years.

Williams gives the only strong live-action performance, capturing the essence of Billie Burke while adding some things of her own.

The script doesn’t do these guys any favors though. The first meeting between Oz and Theadora is filled to the brim with expository dialogue.

But there are enough little things like seeing the Yellow Brick Road and seeing the wicked witch fly in on her broom followed by a trail of black smoke that invoke the original. The flying monkeys are as terrifying as ever. Things like these will please die hard fans just looking to return to the world they fell in love with.

The climax cleverly enough leads up to the status quo when Dorothy first entered Oz. In that respect, the film is successful. Had better casting decisions been made, and with more work done on the script and dialogue, Oz the Great and Powerful could have lived up to its title. Grade: C

By Matt Dougherty


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