Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“Am I dreaming?,” asks Oscar Diggs (James Franco). “You’re in Oz,” replies Theodora (Mila Kunis), the first of the three witches to meet and greet the second-rate magician and con man who’s been mistaken for a real wizard in the fantasy/adventure film, Oz The Great and Powerful.
His whole life, Oscar has wanted to be a famous performer – the next Houdini and Thomas Edison wrapped up into one man. But in 1905 Kansas, he’s only a magician/con man with a traveling circus. While trying to escape in a hot air balloon from a very angry muscle man for flirting with his girlfriend, Oscar gets swept away by a huge tornado. Begging God – or fate – not to let him die because he hasn’t accomplished anything in his life, Oscar finally passes out.
When he awakes, Oscar finds himself transported to the magical world of Oz. Oscar is greeted by Theodora, a beautiful good witch who’s convinced he is the wizard her father told her about on his death bed that would save the land from the evil wicked witch. In awe of the beauty of both the kingdom and Theodora, Oscar (nickname: Oz) follows her to the Emerald City to meet her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) who’s been ruling the land and supposedly awaiting his arrival. On their way to the Emerald City, Oscar saves a talking little bellhop monkey named Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) from a hungry lion and Finley, pledging his life and loyalty to Oscar, joins in the journey.
Once in the Emerald City, Oscar is informed by Evanora that in order for him to collect the kingdom’s riches and rule Oz, he must kill the wicked witch. Determined to keep the facade going and become ruler of Oz, Oscar and Finley head to the Dark Forest to find and kill the wicked witch. But when Oscar meets Glinda he realizes she’s Glinda the good witch (Michelle Williams) instead of the wicked witch he was told to kill. He finally begins to realize that everything in Oz is not as he has been told.
Directed by Sam Raimi, Oz The Great and Powerful is an enchanting, magical and visually breathtaking film. The bold bright colors of the forests, the Emerald City and of course the yellow brick road look almost as marvelous as they did in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. The use of 3D in the movie is fantastic. It truly adds to the adventure, making the audience feel as though they are falling with Oscar over a giant waterfall, being chased by angry flying baboons, and flying over the land.
Michelle Williams is a delight as Glinda the good witch. She captures the character’s innocence, charm, beauty, and optimism perfectly. Williams is first introduced in the film as Annie, Oscar’s one true love back home in Kansas who he just couldn’t bring himself to commit to. And Williams and Franco have solid chemistry as both Glinda and Oscar and also as Annie and Oscar. James Franco in the early part of the film as Oscar seems to be almost overdoing it and a little uncomfortable in the role of the second-rate magician and con man. However, once his character arrives in Oz and meets Theodora, Franco seems to become more comfortable and believable as the fake wizard.
Mila Kunis gives a soft, sweet and effective performance as Theodora the witch who first finds Oscar and falls for him almost immediately. However, it’s in the second half of the film where her performance is lacking and comes up short.
A worthy prequel to the classic 1939 The Wizard of Oz, Oz The Great and Powerful is a bright, funny, at times corny, and visually stunning adventure that is the first must-see family film of the year. It’s sure to delight anyone who loves or even just enjoys the original Oz adventure with Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion.
Oz The Great and Powerful hit theaters on March 8, 2013 and is rated PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.
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