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Oz The Great And Powerful 3D (PG)

Rachel Winterbottom finds this prequel more than a pair of ruby slippers short of the 1939 classic

Written by . Published on March 11th 2013.


Oz The Great And Powerful 3D (PG)
 

THE 1939 adaptation of L Frank Baum’s classic The Wizard of Oz was all about Judy Garland’s Dorothy and her journey down the yellow brick road. But enough about the gingham-wearing one, what about the great man himself? Director Sam Raimi pulls back the curtain for this prequel and reveals the wizard’s womanising past.

Oscar ‘Oz’ Diggs (James Franco, Howl, 127 Hours) is a cheap circus magician with dreams of becoming a great man and no desire to settle for any of the many women he’s been stringing along. When a hurricane takes him from the drab black and white Kansas to the technicolour glory of the land of Oz, he seizes his chance.

You’ll find no deep ruminations here – this is a kid’s film, after all – and Franco’s Oz takes his inexplicable namesake in his stride. His performance is, as always, slightly mesmerising, which is perfect for the duplicitous would-be wizard.

The naïve, wide-eyed witch Theodora the Good (Mila Kunis, Ted, Black Swan) falls for his charms immediately, mistaking him for the prophesized wizard who will save all the people of Oz from the wicked witch and be their king. Her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz, Dream House), is less sure, and sets him the task of killing the wicked witch Glinda (Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn) to prove his worth.  

Along with his flying monkey companion (voiced by Zack Braff), Oz sets off down the yellow brick road with every intention of becoming a great man, whether he saves Oz or not.

The original Spiderman/The Evil Dead director Raimi is well used to telling the story of the underdog and he brings his credentials to this (sort of) prequel. His Oz is very reminiscent of the 1939 film but with the dark surrealism of Alice’s Wonderland. It’s the 3D that truly allows Raimi’s vision of Oz to come into its own and his signature playful touch appears in full force.

Oz The Great And Powerful

Raimi’s 3D Oz comes alive with glittering rainbows, majestic waterfalls, jewelled foliage, musical flowers, a (literal) china town and a forest populated by fantastical, lamp-eyed creatures that stalk your every step. Even the hurricane that whisks the magician away from the real world is a sumptuous 3D masterpiece.

There are deviations from the MGM classic. Musical numbers are blessedly absent (for the most part) and as such the Munchkins are side-lined in favour of bland locals. For copyright reasons, there are also no iconic ruby slippers (they were silver in Baum’s book anyway). However, so little else is changed that you’ll wonder if Raimi’s reboot is strictly necessary.

Oz The Great And Powerful

There are some lazy flaws. It’s no surprise when the real wicked witch is revealed (and it’s inexplicable why she’d hide who she was in the first place). The comedy is gentle and infrequent. The tone shifts uncertainly between light-hearted (bordering on cartoonish) and dark (a living doll’s entire family is crushed). Motives are few and far between and characters are thinly sketched.

You would expect more from such an incredible female cast. Weisz is beautiful and cold as the clichéd Evanora, Williams is barely challenged as Glinda, who only gets vaguely interesting in the final ten minutes, and Kunis only really shines as Theodora when she goes from insipid to jilted – a delightful transition.

Oz The Great And Powerful

The main standout performance is from Franco as Oz. He brings his peculiar mix of sleaze and laidback charm to the role of the selfish philanderer on the yellow brick road to redemption.

You’ll find no deep ruminations here – this is a kid’s film, after all – and Franco’s Oz takes his inexplicable namesake in his stride. His performance is, as always, slightly mesmerising, which is perfect for the duplicitous would-be wizard.

A morality tale at heart, Raimi’s child-friendly take on how the wizard became so wonderful is light entertainment that, while fun, is unlikely to blaze any cinematic trails like its 1939 counterpart.

6/10

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AnonymousMarch 13th 2013.

Don't Watch it!!!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 13th 2013.

Story-line is not so good!

AnonymousMarch 13th 2013.

Yes! true!

Bob the BritMarch 14th 2013.

"The main standout performance is from Franco as Oz"?
Really?
I found Francio's performance to be superficial, and 'by the numbers'.
I wish Disney had held out for an actor that couple bring some real pizazz to the role - Robert Downey Jr. or (dare I say it?) Johnny Depp.

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