Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Messing with a classic like The Wizard of Oz is a dangerous proposition. The film is so beloved that you’re almost guaranteed the wraith of its many fans by even attempting a remake. Oz the Great and Powerful mostly avoids this by being a prequel concerning a lesser character (Oz) and not mentioning Dorothy at all. Oz is made with a great deal of skill and some eye-popping effects but little of the heart and soul that made the original so memorable. The film is not without merit though, and features some decent performances and an often lively pace. James Franco stars as the wizard as he attempts to save Oz from the wicked witch and her flying monkey minions. Franco tries hard but first choice Robert Downey Jr would have been a much better pick, his quirky charm and charisma would be put to perfect use as the con man/wizard Oz.

Oz the Great and Powerful starts with a respectful and amusing black and white prologue where we meet Oz (almost charisma-free, but clearly trying James Franco) at a small traveling circus. Oz is a womanizer and con man who escapes only to be sucked into a twister and thrust upon Oz. Oz itself is full of CG wonders and one longs for the old-fashioned practical effects. The CG is most effective when it concerns a small china doll come to life. The character manages to both be creepy and oddly touching and provides some needed moments of heart. The people of Oz believe that Franco is the wizard of prophecy there to save the good people of Oz from a wicked witch. There are three witches in Oz played by Michelle Williams (the good witch), Rachel Weisz (best cast as the evil witch), and Mila Kunis (ill at ease with a tricky role) as a witch sister. The transformation of one of these witches to become the wicked witch is a very effective, disturbing scene, done almost completely and cleverly in shadows. The Wicked Witch’s backstory isn’t effective and won’t make anyone forget the original Oz.

Oz the Great and Powerful isn’t an instant classic like the original film. It’s hard for me to even compare the two. This is a CG-fest with some shards of imagination and a few memorable characters. I enjoyed it for what it is and I’m happy to report it does not harm the legacy of The Wizard of Oz in any way. For some fans of the original though, they may quickly find that there’s no place like home.

Grade: B

pixel Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

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