Review: Oz The Great And Powerful

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Review: Oz The Great And Powerful

It’s somewhat ironic that the titular character of this film is, famously, a con-man, hiding behind smoke and mirrors to make himself seem grander than he is. Oz the Great and Powerful attempts to hide its shoddy, cardboard storyline behind a shiny, blue-screen glaze, but – like the wizard himself – it’s all too easy to see the disappointment lurking behind the glitter.

Considering director Sam Raimi – he of the Evil Dead (FYI, old buddy Bruce Campbell is in Oz, with an even bigger chin than usual) and Spiderman trilogies – had three years, a gargantuan $215m budget and an all-star cast to play with, I expected much more. Anyone who has seen the excellent theatre production of Wicked will know that it is possible to do a Wizard of Oz prequel that is intelligent, surprising and entertaining. Oz the Great and Powerful is none of these.

James Franco plays small-time magician Oscar who gets whisked away in a tornado-battered hot air balloon to the fantastical land of Oz, where he tries desperately to make up for a poor script by forcing his face into ever-more painful looking grins. Once there, he encounters three mesmerizingly beautiful witches – Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and finally Glinda (Michelle Williams) – who drive the plot with their war of good vs wicked. Zach Braff provides most of the laughs; essentially playing himself, at first in human form, then as a CGI flying monkey.



It is, admittedly, very pretty to look at – the cast are, of course, horrendously attractive, and the scenery is stunning, with many scenes looking suspiciously like the Canadian tourism advert that played before the screening. Impressive too was the way in which it subtly transitioned from sepia-toned, small-screen 1905 reality to widescreen, highly saturated colour as Franco spins out of the tornado and into Oz.

However, the story is horribly predictable and falls into the same old fairytale stereotypes without playing with them or questioning them in any way. The blonde witch is good, the dark haired witches are evil, blah blah. Poor young Mila Kunis is so upset at being duped by a handsome misogynistic male that she becomes irrevocably evil and turns green, because we all know that you can’t be really evil unless you’re also ugly. Franco fails to charm, instead coming across as either boring or a bit of a dick, and his opening scene with Kunis – which needed to be done well, as it was a crucial part of the plot – seemed stilted and unconvincing.

As purely a children’s movie, this might just about pass muster, as they are less likely to notice the two dimensional characterisation and be less inclined to sigh loudly at the clichés. Nevertheless, given how it is more than possible to make a children’s film that is smart, funny and universally entertaining (see: almost any Pixar movie ever), this film really should have tried a little harder.


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