Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful

Last night I saw Oz the Great and Powerful, starring James Franco and Michelle Williams.

The story serves as a prequel to the legendary Wizard of Oz; both are based on the classic children's books by L. Frank Baum.

Oscar Diggs (Franco) is a common con man in turn-of-the-century Kansas. We see moments of compassion/conscience hit him (a young girl asking for the power to walk again, etc.), but they're only moments. He's clearly someone who has survived on his looks and clever charms, and shows no signs of stopping.

When a tornado (of course) lifts him up and out of his circus life, and catapults him into the perimeters of the Emerald City, things begin to feel familiar—in a good way.

He first encounters Theodora (Mila Kunis) and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), along with Finley the monkey (Zach Braff), who becomes his personal assistant. There is the usual talk of wicked witches and a horrible sequence where an entire village has been wiped out by their evil. It is at this time he helps China Girl (a creepy, large-eyed CGI porcelain figure) to walk again by gluing her legs back together. He will pretend to be The Wizard of Oz to gain all of the riches of Emerald City.

But it's not until he encounters Glinda (Williams), the luminescent good witch,  that things actually begin to happen.

Not to say the lead up to this moment isn't entertaining (because it is), but for what is assumed to be a kids' movie, it does run a bit long.

Anyway, the battle between good and evil ramps up, as does the chemistry between Oz and Glinda, and the culmination is a satisfying sequence of events featuring classic elements of the beloved 1939 film (which sort of make you want to run home and watch that one again).

I enjoyed Oz a great deal more than I thought I would. It stays faithful both to the original source text and the more famous film in the same series. And it does so using the appeals of James Franco and Michelle Williams, who are always a pleasure to watch.


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