Oz the Great and Powerful


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Potholes in the yellow brick road

Oz the Great and Powerful has inconsistent flashes of greatness, but rarely gets far away from its home in Decency, Kansas. Visually, the film could beat the likes of Avatar and Life of Pi in a beauty pageant. But special effects alone can’t entertain an audience for a 130-minute runtime, and with little else to distract from poor acting and awkward filler, this film isn’t the magical journey the kingdom has been waiting for.

The prequel is good as long as it stays on the yellow brick road the classic Wizard of Oz paved for it. The script (written by David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner) is packed with munchkin-sized references and foreshadowing to the original tale. When the script thinks for itself, however, story elements, characters, and dialogue is generic and unoriginal.

One thing the script got right is the characterization of traveling “magician” Oscar Diggs (Oz for short). One of the worst choices the movie made was to cast James Franco to play him. Oz is a con artist who knows he is a bad man, but muses with the notion he could one day be a great one. He mistreats his assistant (Zach Braff) and woos nearly every woman he meets with a “special” music box heirloom. After lamely delivering a few monologues and getting chased into a tornado that apparently no one noticed, Oz pledges to reshape his life and finds himself in the beautifully animated country of Oz.

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He is discovered by Theodora (Mila Kunis), a witch who has overcome her wicked temper to be good. Theodora falls in love with Oz later that same scene and brings him to Emerald City, currently under the rule of her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz). It is prophesied that a wizard named Oz would one day pop out of nowhere, defeat the Wicked Witch who is apparently wreaking havoc in some way that we never see, and become King of Oz. Knowing he isn’t the “real” wizard, Oz sets out on his quest with the companionship of Finley the flying monkey (voiced by Braff) and a nameless China doll with jarring personality inconsistencies (voiced by Joey King).

The film is probably worth seeing just to watch Mila Kunis running around in her maroon witch costume. Whatever doubts I had about her taking on a non-comedic role are now moot. I wish I could say the same for Franco, who stepped down from his usually stellar track record with this role. I’ve never fully understood James Franco’s face (how on Oz does he smile that wide? And his eyebrows?), but he was mismatched for this role. He was pretty funny, though, and had great chemistry with his animated companions Braff and King.

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As amazing as the special effects were, the design team did commit a wicked crime. The Wicked Witch wore an incredible costume, and looked terrifying on her flying broom. But her skin, which is supposed to be covered in warts, wrinkles, burns and whatever else could go wrong with a face, was virtually perfect. (Well, once you get over the smooth green complexion.) Not a wart in sight. The iconic character’s defining characteristic is her ugliness, so the design makes very little sense. Perhaps they were afraid of tainting their beautiful picture with a little unsightliness.

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Nitpicking aside, hardly a second of the film is spent not showcasing a new visual marvel. Oz plays its strengths smartly. It knows when to tone back from bombastic, eye-popping visuals of entire cities and forests and focus on much simpler beauty, such as the delicate animation of the China doll. However, the film is so beautiful that at some points it’s borderline ugly. Visual marvels alone cannot carry a movie. Director Sam Raimi knows this, and tried (and overall failed) to include more for the ticket price. As this film proved, movies rely on special effects to sell tickets.

At the same time, it’s hard to imagine how much more special effects can improve. Naturally they will, and naturally they will continue to sell tickets without offering anything else to the screen. Somewhere over the rainbow, even bluebirds will be digitally enhanced and converted to 3D wonders.

3/5 stars

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About Logan Krum Movie Reviews

Hi. I’m Logan Krum, now going into my third year of studying journalism at Temple University. I created this blog to help create a portfolio of my work as an entertainment journalist and screenwriter. Though I usually disagree with the Tomato Meter, I hope you enjoy my thoughts on current pop culture movies. I can be contacted at logan.krum@gmail.com.

3 responses to “Oz the Great and Powerful”

  1. MJ says :

    Saw the movie & agree with you. By the way, where were the ruby slippers? Surprised they made no reference to them.

  2. CMrok93 says :

    Nice review Logan. Doesn’t do much to be like Oz, but at least brings us back into that world and keeps us happy once again.

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