Title: Oz the Great and Powerful
$325 Million? $325 million. Everybody keeps talking about that number, but I don't see what the big deal is. The national debt increases by that much every 13 seconds.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Johnnys from Airplane out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Carnival "magician" is mystically transported to enchanted kingdom he is destined to save from evil witches.
Tagline: "The land you know. The story you don't."
Better Tagline: "$325 million?"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Oscar "Oz" Diggs (James Franco) works as a magician/con artist in a traveling carnival and is always one step ahead of comeuppance, until he reaches Kansas. Making what he thinks is his escape in a hot air balloon, Oz is instead swept up in a tornado and spirited away to a land that bears his name. Meeting (and wooing) the witches Theodora (Mila Kunis) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz), he learns his coming has been foretold as the great wizard who will defeat the Wicked Witch and deliver the kingdom from tyranny. Pity Oz doesn't know any actual magic.
"Critical" Analysis: You know, requiring all visitors to travel by tornado is a pretty stout anti-immigration policy.
I try not to read other movie reviews before I've written mine, but I chanced upon a couple blurbs for OtGaP the other day, one which struck me as particularly humorous criticized the movie for "not measuring up to the original."
You don't say.
I'm not sure if getting the knives out for Sam Raimi and company is completely warranted. Would reaction have been as strong if he and writers David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner adapted one of L. Frank Baum's 14 Oz books? Is it really that offensive to people to craft an origin story for the titular character we only saw for a few minutes in the 1939 original?
Newsflash, folks: if you're over the age of 7, you're never going to experience that sense of big screen wonder you felt the first time you saw The Wizard of Oz (or Star Wars, or, uh, The Lord of the Rings?) again. If you go into Oz the Great and Powerful expecting that same sensation when Judy Garland stepped out into Technicolor, of course you're going to be disappointed.
But taking it out of that context, this isn't a bad movie. In all seriousness, I have no idea where all of that $325 million went (certainly not for A-list actors -- take that, Franco!), but plenty found its way into the F/X budget. I'm mostly "meh" on majestic green screen vistas at this point, but the CGI characters (Finley and China Girl especially) look great, as does the way Raimi captures what maybe, possibly, could have been how Oz and company engineered the big finale.
I went in expecting a Disney movie and got a Disney movie, with all the cheesiness and "hero finding the goodness within" that entails. I wasn't looking for the wheel to be reinvented.
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That said, the more I think about it, the more Franco just doesn't work. Admittedly, the guy does insincerely unctuous with the best of them, and that kind of laissez-faire effort worked okay in Pineapple Express, but here it makes him hard to get behind. At the opposite end of the scenery chewing spectrum is Kunis, who's clearly enjoying herself, even if I didn't quite buy her transformation (or the fact I couldn't stop hearing Meg from Family Guy). And Zach Braff (Finley the Flying Monkey) was good enough to make me forgive Garden State. Almost.
This being Raimi, there's a Bruce Campbell cameo, a Ted Raimi cameo, and several frenetically dangerous action sequences. There were also at least two scenes that could easily have been cut to avoid Peter Jackson-esque overkill. In the end, I enjoyed the homages (B/W to color, 4:3 to 16:9) and Evanora's Dark Lord of the Sith powers and think Oz the Great and Powerful is perfectly adequate for kids and people who don't believe every trip down cinema's memory lane amounts to sodomy of their childhood.
If you want that, try the other Oz.