Movie Guyd: Is “Oz” Powerful or Pointless?

Jay Catterson
Authored by
Jay Catterson

March 11, 2013
2:47 p.m.

The wizards at Disney have conjured up a new tale based on L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz novels and the beloved 1939 MGM film starring Judy Garland. But instead of relying solely on the source material, Oz the Great and Powerful takes place way before Dorothy even sets house in the place.

James Franco plays Oscar “Oz” Diggs, a conniving sideshow magician whose womanizing antics land him in hot water. During his escape via hot air balloon, a tornado whisks him away to the Land of Oz, where he soon encounters, not one, but three witches – Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams). Through them, he learns of a prophecy where a wizard from the outside world will restore peace and order to the land. With the help of a flying monkey sidekick named Finley (voiced by Zach Braff), Oscar sets off on a quest to rescue the people of Oz from the wrath that has besieged them.

Will Oscar rise to the occasion to become the Great Wizard, or will his old con man ways get the best of him? And is this flick worth the balloon ride, or is it full of hot air that will make you wanna click your heels together and cry “There’s no place like home!” in despair? Read on!

The Good: The story is quite simple, and overall it works as a prequel to the Oz story. Thanks to Sam Raimi’s (the Spider-Man Trilogy) direction, the 3D effects are utilized to great effect and are quite stunning and beautiful. Combined with this amazing use of 3D, the transition from a black-and-white Kansas circa 1905 in 4:3 screen ratio to a 16:9 widescreen ratio in full color when Franco enters Oz is a brilliant, dazzling homage to the original Oz film. Braff’s monkey bellhop Finley is quite adorable and likable, plus Weisz is deliciously devious as the Evanora. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

The Gay: James Franco. Yup, he’s all tall, dark, and handsome, folks, and he knows it. His schmoozy dapper debonair demeanor is in full force here, and is guaranteed to make any Franco fan faint.

Weisz looks FAABULOUS as Evanora. She is simply stunning in those glam gowns. It seems like there’s nothing wrong she can do. You go, girl! WERK!

And it’s an Oz movie. It’s gay by default. Not to mention Mariah Carey sings the theme song “Almost Home” over the closing credits. The marketing team really knows how to lure in the gays and their disposable income with this trifecta of gayness: Franco + friends of Dorothy + Mimi = mega bucks at the box office. Ca-ching!

The Bad: Let’s say that not all is merry in the merry ol’ Land of Oz. As dazzling as the special effects may seem at first, it’s all vaguely familiar; the Disneyfied Oz just seems like a mishmash of Whoville meets Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. And the greenscreen effects are sometimes so noticeably fake that it’s distracting.  And if that wasn’t sickening enough, the filmmakers laid the schmaltz on too thick during the movie. Okay, Disney, we know that you know how to tug at the heartstrings. Enough already!

Now let’s turn to the acting, shall we?  Is it just me, but does anyone else notice that Kunis can’t cry! She has two default settings: normal and LOUD.  She’s not a great actor (at least not in Oz) and seems like she can’t emote effectively. Franco’s performance as Oz isn’t great either; he doesn’t seem charismatic enough for a role like this. It’s like he’s acting in a soap opera the whole time. Perhaps he’s spent a bit too much time on General Hospital? Hmm. And although I loved Williams in Brokeback Mountain and My Week with Marilyn, she also seemed miscast as Glinda. Instead of being a gentle and compassionate witch, she came across as a slightly high (as in “sniffing magic pixie dust” high) one.

And where the hell were those ruby slippers? GIVE US GAYS SOME DAMN SPARKLY SHOES!

The Fugly: I still can’t get over those scenes where Kunis tries to cry. So. Painful. And Williams’ golden locks seemed to have lost a battle with an overzealous curling iron. Glinda, your gilded weave’s got one too many ringlets, girl! Less is more, okay?

And flying BABOONS?! WTF?! Way to go all species specific when casting your flying simians, Disney. Baboons don’t seem all that lithe and aerodynamic enough to be capable of flight. I bet the chimpanzee actor’s union isn’t happy about this casting choice.

And thank goodness this Oz didn’t try to be a musical! The filmmakers did spare us a full-on musical number from the Munchkins, but the small snippet that they performed was horrendous. Disaster averted!

Oz: Great and Powerful, or Glum and Pointless? Overall, this film is a fun frolic through the world of Oz. Not super spectacular plot-wise, but it’s pretty much standard family fare that everyone can enjoy. The 3D was stunning at times, and is definitely worth the  few extra bucks to experience it on the big screen. And Weisz’ performance is wickedly fabulous. If it weren’t for some iffy greenscreen mishaps and horrendous acting by Kunis (and a ho-hum performance by Franco), I’d say it’s a hit; in other words, it’s a safe bet to ease on down this yellow brick road.

The Grade: B


Anonymous User
SexyBlack93 (Guest)
9 years, 2 months ago

Ok movie for me. Could’ve been better. Kunis could’ve delivered a lot more as her character. Felt Weisz’s character felt a bit too forced.

Anonymous User
#livingthedream (Guest)
9 years, 2 months ago

Can we just all take a moment to think about the fact that disney decided, not only to avoid remaking the original with modern technology, but to avoid even touching on the plot of wicked… that is just plain dumb.